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Bradenton, Fla., Approves $3.5M for Emergency Operations Center

An existing Red Cross building will be remodeled into a hardened 13,100-square-foot building that allows Bradenton's emergency response staff to weather a storm and deploy resources.

A palm tree with its branches being blown sideways in strong winds.
(TNS) — Bradenton leaders are planning a stronger, more robust response to future natural disasters with the construction of a new emergency management center.

City leaders have approved a $3.5 million plan to remodel the old Red Cross building near G.T. Bray Park to serve as an operating center during hurricanes and other intense storms. With new equipment and structural reinforcements, city leaders hope to respond to threats more efficiently.

"I wanted to make sure ... we were enhancing our emergency management capabilities," City Administrator Rob Perry said. "We want to make sure we can independently function, communicate and contribute to recovery in the area."

The Red Cross building, 2905 59th St. W., will be remodeled into a hardened 13,100-square-foot building that allows Bradenton's emergency response staff to weather a storm and deploy resources.

The planned Public Safety Operations Center is in a central location that allows emergency response teams with heavy equipment to stage nearby at G.T. Bray Park. The building is also less than a mile away from HCA Florida Blake Hospital.

"It's a really ideal location," Perry said.

Bradenton plans better hurricane response

During previous emergencies, city leaders have worked in Manatee County Government's Emergency Operations Center or Bradenton City Hall, but a dedicated center of their own will increase the city's response time.

"It gives the availability to be more in the heart of our city. We'll have the operating teams right there instead of staging further away," Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown said. "If a storm hits us, the No. 1 priority is getting the streets open. They can get out instantly after the storm hits. That's the most important thing — getting to the people that need us."

Brown said the need for a standalone emergency operations center was emphasized in the days leading up to Hurricane Ian in September 2022. Until a last-minute shift, the storm was forecast to make landfall on Coquina Beach.

"That was a moment that made me realize we need to be prepared," Brown said. "If that would have stayed that path, we saw what happened to the south of us. We want a facility that will sustain that and allow us to run the operations we need to do."

More than half of the construction costs could be covered by the federal government. Congressman Vern Buchanan's office is working to secure $1.8 million as a congressional budget allocation.

Florida legislators previously approved a $1.4 million request for the building, but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the item along with over $500 million in state budget cuts.

According to city staff, construction is expected to begin within the next few weeks. Bradenton leaders hope to have the Public Safety Operations Center open by the end of 2024.

©2023 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.