City approves $6.1 million contract for emergency operations center

Lexington Fayette Urban County Government council chambers
Lexington Fayette Urban County Government council chambers Herald-Leader

The city is moving forward with plans to overhaul a former juvenile detention center for an emergency operations center that would have all of the city's 911 operations, LexCall 311 and emergency management operations under one roof.

In early December, the Urban County Council approved a $6.1 million contract to Churchill McGee for renovations to the former juvenile justice building at Cisco Road.

Those renovations should begin in late January, said Rick Curtis, administrative officer for public safety. The building is likely to be completed by early 2016, he said. The building has been gutted. Churchill McGee will add internal walls, electrical and other infrastructure, Curtis said.

The decision to use the city-owned juvenile justice center at 115 Cisco Road as the city's emergency operations center rather than build a new one will probably save the city between $24 million and $25 million, Curtis said.

"It's going to save millions of dollars by repurposing an existing sound structure to bring all of these operations under one roof," said Clay Mason, the city's outgoing Public Safety Commissioner.

Mason said that before he took the job in 2011, the city had considered building a new consolidated emergency operations center at Coldstream Research Park. But the cost of building a new center would have exceeded $39 million, consultants had told the city.

Mason looked at the city's available buildings and noticed that the Cisco Road juvenile detention center was largely being used for storage. The 32,000-square-foot building would be ideal to combine all the city's call operations — the 311 system that connects people to city departments, police and fire dispatch and E911, and its emergency management department — under one roof.

The city's emergency management department was spending more than $125,000 a year on a lease for space in a building on Martin Luther King Drive. The department was moved from there to Cisco Road in summer 2012 to save money, Mason said.

While the Cisco Road building is being renovated, emergency management has been moved to a city-owned building on Old Frankfort Pike.

The city has paid for its portion of the renovation — roughly $3 million — through bond money over the past two years, Curtis said.

Mason said public safety will ask for additional money in next year's budget for new communications equipment and furniture.

"We would have had to replace the communications equipment even if we had not moved," Mason said.

In addition, the city is expected to save more money when it moves all departments to Cisco Road. For example, LexCall is in city-owned property on Main Street. The city could use that for other purposes or lease it to a business, Mason said.

He and Curtis said the city needs to have all of its call operations and emergency management under one roof.

"If you have one event that is taking multiple resources, you need to have the ability for fire and police dispatch and emergency operations to be in the same place," Mason said.

In the past, the city has had to scramble to find a place to stage emergency operations during ice storms and other major storm events.

"We would have to stage in one place and then have to go to another place for a press conference," Curtis said. "This will make it so it's inclusive in one building. It just makes sense."