MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County’s new 911 dispatch center is probably three months from completion, but it already has a pulse.
The lighting embedded in the ceiling of the call center in the fortified core of the structure resembles the jagged peaks and valleys of a heart monitor readout.
“I didn’t even know that was being put in,” Monongalia County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Smith said during a recent tour of the facility.
“If you think about it, it’s very appropriate. The 911 dispatch center is the heartbeat of emergency services in the county.”
Sometime in early 2024, the $10 million facility will replace the county’s existing 5,000-square-foot MECCA 911 building, built in 1997 on Mon General Drive.
Not only will the new building more than double the space available for operations, it’ll sit next to an accompanying 9,600 square-foot garage.
The site will serve day-to-day as the heart of the county’s emergency operations, but it’s being built to fill the role of a regional emergency response command center.
It’s essentially a mountaintop bunker. A building within a building.
The exterior walls are blast resistant. Inside, you have a ring of office space circling a second block structure containing the call center and the emergency operations center. Every door and window providing access to that central core are bullet proof.
With the flip of a switch, the EOC can be diverted onto its own internal water supply and ventilation system.
The entire four-acre property perched above Mountaintop Beverage in the Morgantown Industrial Park will be fenced and gated.
“God forbid, if all hell breaks loose. They can stay in here. They don’t have to come out of that room,” Smith said. “This place can be completely locked down.”
Monongalia County Commissioner Sean Sikora said the county looked at multiple potential building sites before landing at MIP.
The upper industrial park location is a perfect fit for a number of reasons.
One, it’s within sight of MECCA’s Harmony Grove communications tower — likely shaving at least $1 million off the cost of the facility.
Two, it will get the core of the county’s emergency response capabilities out of game day traffic and right next to a new I-79 Harmony Grove interchange.
And three, there’s room to grow.
The facility will sit right across Responder Way from another four-acre pad for which the county has the right of first refusal.
“Say, for example, Mon EMS wanted to locate up here, we have that space locked down. Of course, they’d have to come up with some money. We can’t do this for them,” Sikora said, gesturing to the 911 site. “It just provides options. I like to build with the end in mind. I don’t like to build for what we need right now. We need to build for growth.”
Enrout Properties is building the 911 center and will own it. The company will lease the facility to the county at a rate that will cover the cost of construction, plus an additional percentage factored in to cover property taxes in order to make the surrounding TIF district whole.
At the end of the 30-year life of the district, the building’s deed will be transferred over to the county.
The actual construction is being undertaken by March-Westin with input from Smith and guidance obtained by touring facilities and speaking with emergency services personnel across West Virginia.
“We’re so excited. It just won’t get here quick enough,” Smith said when asked about moving day. “This whole process has been exciting. A big part of that is knowing this is something that will serve this county well into the future.”