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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Emergency Operations Center planned

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The old building that housed the Southfork River Therapy and Living Center is now owned by the county. According to Judge Charles Willett and Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Darrel Zimmer, the county is in the process of getting grant money to make the facility into an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).Photo by Emily McIntosh, floor plan courtesy of Judge Charles Willett
The old Southfork River Therapy and Living Center will receive a face lift and become a new, much needed facility for Fulton County.

Last year, Jim Cooper, the building's former owner, donated the facility to the county. The county has since been in the process of getting a grant to renovate it to be used as an Emergency Operations Center (EOC). According to Fulton County Judge Charles Willett, the grant is for $250,000.

"This is the plan that has been submitted to Arkansas that has been approved and now is in Washington, D.C. to await for final approval because it's federal money being used," Judge Willett said as he pulled out a blueprint for renovations of the old nursing home.

According to both Judge Willett and Fulton County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Darrel Zimmer, the proposed Fulton County Emergency Operations Center will put all emergency services under one roof in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.

"We worked with White River Planning and Development to help us prepare the grant. The grant was then sent to Little Rock. They have a committee that looks for eligibility to see if it qualifies. We did qualify," Judge Willett said. "Our grant has now been sent from Arkansas to Washington. We have put in for a $250,000 grant, and also we met with Congressman (Marion) Berry and Sen. (Blanche) Lincoln's office. They're both working with us trying to help us get this approved.

"Since the flood and the ice storm, we (realized) the need for something like this (the EOC)," Judge Willett said.

"With the extra space (after the renovation) we will be looking for further expansion," Judge Willett said.

One possibility of expansion is moving the county jail to the building, he said.

Zimmer said it could be September before the county knows whether or not it received the grant. Afterwards, the judge said it could be about a year before the EOC is completed and becomes operational.

"(I was) talking with Sen. Lincoln's office this morning and they told me if we didn't get approved for this grant that there is some stimulus money that might be able to filter down in our area," Judge Willett said. "So, we've got two options. Maybe one of them will work."

Zimmer said the estimated cost of the project is about $333,334.

"If approved (for the grant), we will apply for a USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) (grant)," Judge Willett said. "They have a grant where we can get 15 percent of the total cost."

"The building itself counts as our match (to the grant)," Zimmer said. He said the value of the 14,000 square foot building was about $800,000.

"That's how we qualify for the grant because that's our part of the matching grant because we have the building already," Judge Willett said. "(The building) would probably be the main issue on us getting approved. We do have the building standing, we just have to get in there and renovate the inside."

When renovations are complete, secondary offices for Emergency Management Services (EMS), Office of Emergency Management (OEM), County Health Unit, County Judge and Salem Police Chief will be in one location in case of emergencies. County dispatch, the Sheriff's Office and 9-1-1 offices will be in the new location permanently. "It puts everybody in a centralized location," Zimmer said.

"One of the main things on the ice storm was the loss of communications. With this facility, we'll be able to have communications (during a natural disaster)," Judge Willett said.

The EOC can also be used as an emergency shelter for residents, and it would give the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Guard and other relief help, one centralized location in the county to send food, water, cots and other needed items in an emergency.

Zimmer said the conference room in the proposed plan can also be used as a training area for emergency personnel.

Included in the renovations are changing the old resident rooms into office space and adding secured doors to certain areas, according to the floor plans.

"(The EOC) will be awesome because anytime during a storm, you know, we'll have all of our people right there, and we'll have all of the department heads there," Zimmer said.

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