Wood County Commission, firms discuss 911 Center plans
PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission began discussions with a number of architectural and engineering firms to see who they want to work with on the possible new Wood County 911 Center in downtown Parkersburg.
Commissioners met Monday with representatives from ZMM Architects & Engineers of Charleston, the Thrasher Group of Bridgeport and McKinley Architecture and Engineering of Wheeling. Additional meetings are set up Thursday and next Monday with other firms.
“We are excited for this project,” Commission President Blair Couch said. “We hope the architectural and engineering firm will help guide us to the best use for this property with us giving insight into what we need to replace.”
County Engineer Maria Hardy also sat in on the interviews to ask questions the county would want to consider in moving forward with this project.
The county has been looking at possible uses for the 170-foot by 170-foot lot the old county jail sat on, including a new 911 center, somewhere to house the county maintenance department as well as having a large meeting room/emergency shelter facility, being able to do some storage and more.
Commissioners stated the old building that still houses the maintenance department and used to house the Wood County Sheriff’s Department needs to be replaced due to mold issues and other concerns. They want the new building built first and have everyone move in and then they want the old building torn down and turned into parking spaces.
The county is scheduled to receive $16.2 million from the American Recovery Act as well as additional money from opioid abuse settlements with some of that possibly going into this project.
County officials want to highlight the fact that so many local, county and federal government operations/offices are in downtown.
“This really is government square,” Couch said.
Officials said there have been needs that have become apparent throughout the pandemic, like a meeting space that can accommodate a lot of people but can still social distance.
Commissioner Jimmy Colombo hopes the new building will add something to downtown Parkersburg.
Commissioner Robert Tebay raised some concerns about the center being in downtown Parkersburg and close to the floodwall, but other officials did not think the floodwall would be in any danger of collapsing in the immediate future.
Wood County would need 10-12 computer assisted dispatching positions in the new facility with the potential for future growth, officials said.
ZMM had done work in Wood County before on the Judge Black Judicial Annex and the Wood County Justice Center as well as a number of improvement projects at the Wood County Courthouse.
ZMM presented a two-story concept that could be used for the space with 19,000 square feet on the first floor and 11,000 square feet on the second. It was just one possibility at this point. The initial plan includes a gathering space for 400 people, large toilet facilities that include showers, office and storage space. There is a one-story maintenance facility at the end with three drive-through bays. A second story would be a 911 center including space to grow.
ZMM Architect Adam Krason said he wanted more meetings to be able to discuss what the needs are as that will help guide them in their design work.
Thrasher Buildings and Facilities Market Leader Craig Baker and Project Manager Architect Matt Breakey said the county needed to look beyond the needs of today and where the needs might be in 50 years. They said they would try to project out what the needs will be in the next five to 10 years.
Thrasher does a lot of project work in the public sector which makes them suited for this kind of project. They did not come in with any initial designs, saying they wanted to talk to officials first to see what they wanted and what was needed.
“We are not going to come in with a preconceived notion of what you need,” Breakey said, adding that will come through discussions.
McKinley Architecture and Engineering of Wheeling Senior Architect Thomas Worlledge and President Ernest Dellatorre said they have been in business for over 40 years and approaching $1 billion in construction value for buildings they have designed and constructed.
“The best indication of our success is our clients,” Dellatorre said. “We have had clients that have been with us for 40 years.”
Officials also asked about each firm’s current work schedule and if they would be able to fit such a project in the immediate future or if it needed to be planned for further out. The firms stated they would make this project a priority for them.
Tebay also brought up the rising costs of building materials. Since the pandemic put a lot of projects on hold, he expects that once projects start up again there will be a high demand for materials which could result in some shortages, especially steel, lumber, concrete and other materials.
The firms said they are keeping track of where costs are and where they are expected to go in the near future.
Officials also asked how much of the labor would be done locally. Many of the firms believed they would be able to pull from the local trade unions and contractors for other workers.
Many of the funds coming from the federal government would have to be spent by 2024 so there is time to plan things out and wait to see how the price of materials is impacted, Couch said.
“We are really excited about this project,” he said.
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