The city's failed plan to build a central hub for emergency communications in Fayette County has been revived with a partial renovation of the old juvenile detention center on Cisco Road.
The city's Division of Emergency Management began moving to the vacant jail's office space Monday, after a retrofitting and clean-up that has cost $100,000 so far, Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason said.
The goal is to eventually move the city's Enhanced 911 center, LexCall and police and fire dispatch operations into the center, he said; the Division of Emergency Management had to move sooner than the other agencies to avoid renewing the lease at their aging office at 166 North Martin Luther King Boulevard.
"The lease at their current location was not very favorable to the city," Mason said. "We will be saving approximately $75,000 to $80,000 per year in lease fees."
The full renovation, which could take two years to complete, is in the planning stages and is expected to cost approximately $16 million to $18 million. City officials are working with state and federal emergency organizations to subsidize a chunk of that amount with grants, Mason said.
The project dates to 2007, when the city announced that it was seeking to build a $22 million state-of-the-art communications center and Emergency Operations Center in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The center was to be built on land leased at University of Kentucky's Coldstream Park.
The Games came and went with no updates on the project, which apparently had been halted after the cost of the project grew to nearly $43 million by the following year. The increase drew scrutiny from Urban County Council members, including Mayor Jim Gray, who was on the council at the time.
Mason said the city will save more than half the cost of the planned Coldstream center by moving the project to a vacant building that the city owns. He also said the Cisco Road center will be missing some of the "accoutrements" that were planned for the Coldstream site.
Putting city's communications divisions under one roof also would create more efficiencies and possibly reduce overtime costs that have been prevalent in the Division of Enhanced 911, Mason said.
"You need less people to fill the shifts when everybody is in one house," he said. "We can then save personnel costs."
The old juvenile detention center was built in 1982 and vacated in 2005, when the state opened a regional juvenile justice center on Spurr Road. Occasional government project groups have been temporarily housed in the vacant building.
The old detention center sits in a tree-shaded government annex where Red Mile Place meets Cisco Road, off Versailles Road. Nearby buildings include the Fayette County Extension Office and Fayette County Youth Services.
Part of the juvenile justice center had been painted and cleaned in preparation for the Division of Emergency Management's move. The heating and air-conditioning system has been made operational, and workers were wiring the building for phones, computers and cable TV Monday.
It will probably take a couple weeks for the division to get up and running, Emergency Management director Pat Dugger said in a news release on the city's Web site.
Gray has pledged $800,000 in the next fiscal year's budget for the project, Mason said. The city is working with state's Division of Emergency Management, FEMA and the Army to secure grants for the Emergency Operations Center, which could be activated to serve much of the state in a high-casualty emergency, such as destructive weather or a disaster at the Bluegrass Army Depot chemical weapons stockpile in Richmond.
Mission Critical Partners, a consulting firm from Pennsylvania, has contracted with FEMA to design a layout for the center at no cost to the city, Mason said.
"We're doing it in a more cost-cognizant fashion," he said. "We're basically watching the budget."
Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLPublicSafety.