The new emergency operations center won’t be going up on the outskirts of the Apalachicola Regional Airport as originally planned.
Instead, county commissioners last month gave the go-ahead to build the replacement facility off Highway 65 in Eastpoint.
The site, now in the hands of the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District, consists of a little under 2.9 acres on the west side of U.S. 65, across the road from the county solid waste department facility.
‘It’s closer to U.S. 98, it’s going to be a good thing,” said Jennifer Skipper Daniels, head of the county’s emergency management department.
She said she could have lived with the new facility being built adjacent to where it sits now at the airport.
“One of the main attractions was we were going to keep the old EOC and the old bunk room for storage space,” she said. “We are literally on the apron of the airport, and that made it easy to have a helicopter drop in and deliver supplies.”
But as it turned out, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has regulations that restrict the use of the property for non-aviation purposes once it would revert to the auspices of the county airport.
“I don’t have a preference whether it’s Eastpoint or Apalachicola,” Daniels said. “We just need to have a facility to work with, with needed space and a certain design.”
Funding for the new EOC will come from an allocation of $2.5 million from the state this past legislative session, and another $1 million in funding from the federal government secured the year prior to that.
Daniels said the next step will be to go out for bids, with a redesign since the original design did not incorporate bunk rooms in the new facility.
She said her best guesstimate is that the new building will run about $300 per square foot. With an 11,000 square foot building, the overall cost would run in the neighborhood of $3.3 million.
“That’s what I’m hoping to do anyway,” said Daniels. “The biggest need is we want to get things moving because right now we’re guaranteed that money. I would say we’re looking at starting construction some time next year.”
Daniels said she is looking forward to an upgraded building where the bunk room can accommodate more than 10 people, as is now the case, and that the shower is not built in the electronics room.
“With Idalia, we had four people on cots in the back room,” she said. “The county’s outgrowing what we have. It’s just not big enough and the restrooms and showers are not adequate.”
The new facility will have two bunk rooms, and can accommodate 16 people, with six shower stalls.
“It’s set up almost like a truck stop bathroom, but it will be a little more homey,” Daniels said. “They’ll be a little privacy without being elbow-to-elbow.”
The proposed plans also call for a helicopter pad that will have a dual use to enable the county’s ambulance service to take Lifeflighted patients out of the Eastpoint area.
The new facility is proposed to have 4,000 square feet of warehouse space. “That’s the total amount of storage,” Daniels said. “We can store everything I need to store in it, and it gives room to grow.”
Because the proposed site is far from the Gulf, it won’t have to be built on stilts, she said.
“Plus we’re sitting on an evacuation route in Eastpoint,” Daniels said.