A small group of Cumberland County Commissioners and members of Fayetteville City Council is working toward establishing a consolidated emergency communications system. The group will meet again in January after wrapping up an organizational session late last month. Two members of each body came together, along with public safety professionals, to get organized. The combined group will be known as the Joint 911 Task Force. As many as seven elected officials comprise the committee. The group of fire, police, EMS and communications professionals will do most of the work to plan a joint emergency 911 center.
The need for a combined facility was established several years ago, but it’s been a slow process. The city and county agreed to hire Mission Critical Partners of Raleigh to facilitate the process. The two government units have operated separate 911 centers. One is in the basement of the Cumberland County Law Enforcement Center. The city’s center is on the second floor of city hall. They do not meet current survivability standards. Since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, many jurisdictions have consolidated local 911 facilities to better serve their communities.
A combined facility would bring unified equipment and personnel under one roof. City and county officials have agreed to a price tag of $30 million. The facility would be located on five to ten acres of land outside the immediate Fayetteville / Fort Bragg urban area, which is considered most vulnerable to attack. It would be a fortress-like hardened building capable of withstanding a category four hurricane. A storage building and 100-foot communications tower would also be located on the site. County Commissioner Jimmy Keefe stressed that it’s important for everyone to understand the need for this facility.
Greensboro and Guilford County recently opened a combined 911 center, said consultant Philip Penny. At the group’s first two organizational meetings, officials appear to have settled on two properties they believe suitable for what would also serve as a consolidated emergency operations center. The favorite is the county-owned Cedar Creek Business Park on N.C. 210 one-and-a-half miles east of I-95. Mayor Nat Robertson, who serves on the task force, notes the 911 center would spur additional development at the park which has been vacant since its inception more than 10 years ago.
Consultants are encouraging the group to focus first on securing available state grants. The grant application period begins in March for submission in June. Awards are usually made in September, said Penny. “This project will be attractive to the state,” he added. As the task force comes to terms with the cost and location, it will turn its attention to governance when it meets next in January. Would the two agencies be merged into one, or would they work separately side by side? Consultants hope to position the group to launch whatever they come up with this time next year.