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Wood County Commission chooses firm for 911 center project

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission will discuss what will be in a new 911 center with ZMM Architects & Engineers of Charleston.

The commission chose the firm Monday for the renovation of the 18,000-square-foot former Suddenlink call center at U.S. 50 and Interstate 77 and to convert it into the new dispatching center.

“(ZMM) had a good understanding of our project,” Commission President Blair Couch said. “They had a concise plan … that would be the Taj Mahal of 911 centers. There is a lot of work we can do to keep the costs down and phase it in if necessary. What brought us to this is our need to expand our existing 911 services.”

Couch said it would be a “great opportunity” for the county to expand the 911 center. Discussions among state officials point to the possibility of establishing regional 911 centers, and local officials believe this facility could eventually be geared to such an operation.

“We know there will have to be partnerships, different counties partner with other counties to provide a robust 911 center,” Couch said. “As new requirements come up on how to handle emergency operations, we think this is a good idea. There is a lot of room to expand if necessary. It is a wonderful facility.”

The Wood County 911 Center already dispatches for Wirt County.

Last week, representatives from five engineering and architecture firms made presentations to the commission on what they thought could be done with the building. Most of the firms recommended strengthening the building so it can operate under different conditions.

On Monday, the commission picked ZMM as its first choice with The Thrasher Group of Charleston and McKinley Architecture & Engineering of Wheeling as second and third choices, respectively.

Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard said they are looking to build toward the future. With concerns relating to COVID-19, he said dispatchers need to be spaced further apart from each other. The dispatchers are working in 645 square feet while the new building would have around 3,000 square feet of work space.

“We can do a lot of spacing and bring in additional equipment with things needed technologically in today’s world,” he said.

Woodyard thinks the building can be fortified within with a block structure for the dispatch and emergency operations center areas.

Couch and Woodyard said they hope to keep the existing 911 center on Core Road as a backup facility.

Woodyard said he would like to keep the equipment they have in place there and install new equipment in the former call center. That way, they would have a place to move operations if the main facility needs a thorough cleaning or another situation arises and could keep operations going with little downtime, he said.

“This would allow us to do that,” Woodyard said.

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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