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Conn. Town to Expand Its Emergency Operations Center

After a lengthy grant approval process, delayed by the COVID pandemic, Old Lyme, Conn., has been awarded $708,000 from FEMA to help build the “white box” while the town will furnish equipment, furniture, and fixtures.

(TNS) - The town is seeking updated architectural designs and cost estimates to expand the Emergency Operations Center at the Boughton Road fire station, a project that was priced at around $945,000 in 2017.

After a prolonged grant approval process, the town last year was awarded $708,000 for the project through FEMA. Emergency Management Director David Roberge this week said he applied for the grant about six years ago, but was put on a waiting list before the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed a decision.

The grant is based on cost estimates at the time of the initial application. Roberge said the federal agency back then was offering full reimbursement, but has since revised its program to cover 75 percent of the cost.

FEMA documents show the town is responsible for $236,000 of the project. Roberge said he is applying for funding from the Millstone Nuclear Power Station , which in a typical year provides roughly $50,000 to $80,000 for operations and maintenance expenses, to offset the cost.

He acknowledged construction prices have gone up since 2017. That's why he's looking for a "no frills" design to meet the need for more space to respond to natural and man-made hazards while staying within the federal grant amount.

Roberge said keeping construction costs under $708,000 means building a simple "white box," then using the town's portion of the funds to cover furniture, fixtures and equipment.

He likened the project to a simple addition someone might put on a house.

""It has some heavier construction components, but it's still a white box," he said.

The emergency operations center moved to Boughton Road in 1992 from the basement of the Town Hall. From hurricanes to Millstone malfunctions, the command center serves as a local hub and sometimes a regional dispatch center.

"The rules of engagement have changed, and by building this space out it would benefit the community to be able to have a state-of-the-art operations center that would carry us for another 30 years," he said.

He pointed to an annual Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security emergency preparedness drill slated for this October that will revolve around a simulated attack affecting the presidential election. The threat of a cyber attack means he has to bring in the town's IT specialist, which expands the existing unified command structure comprising police, fire, ambulance and public health officials.

"Right now we're doing that all in one too-small common room, so it gets a little hectic," he said.

Earlier this month, the town began seeking bids for the addition, as well as related upgrades to the building's technology, electrical and heating and cooling systems.

The plan is to configure the space for use as a training facility for various public safety agencies when it isn't being used for emergencies, Roberge said.

The current town budget includes $100,000 for architectural and design fees. With the request for bids set to close on April 17, Roberge said he is hopeful a firm will be selected and a design produced by June. He estimated the selection of a construction firm could allow for work to begin next spring, with the addition expected to take up to 160 days to build.


©2024 The Day (New London, Conn.)
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