Old PD getting upgrade as new EOC

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Monticello’s old police department is getting new life throughthe efforts of volunteer emergency personnel.

Its location next door to the fire department makes it ideal toserve as an emergency command center to coordinate several agenciesduring a major disaster, said Robert Patterson, Lawrence CountyCivil Defense director, county fire coordinator and Monticello firechief.

The Emergency Operations Center will house offices for civildefense, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and American RedCross to make communications between the local, state and publicdisaster response agencies more efficient, Patterson said.

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The old police dispatch office is being refurbished to serve asa link between those agencies and the city police, county sheriff’soffice, hospital and other emergency response personnel, hesaid.

Patterson said other rooms in the EOC include a conference room,bedroom for overnight stays and a kitchen to provide food andbeverages to responders during a crisis.

A storage room is already being utilized to warehouse thecounty’s ready supply of Meals Ready to Eat and bottled water.

“We’ve tried to use as much of the building as is that we could,but all of the rooms have required some work,” Patterson said.

The building has lain dormant since the police department movedinto City Hall more than five years ago.

City Hall was moving from its old location to allow a new bankto move into the building and had more space than it needed at theEunice Chapman Building. Faced with costly repairs to replace theroof over the police department, aldermen and former Police ChiefWillard Griffin determined it would be best to move the policedepartment into City Hall.

The building has been unoccupied since the move, but it neverleft the thoughts of county and city leaders. It was included in aswap of property about two years ago that brought the Atwood WaterPark, with all its maintenance equipment, to the city in exchangefor the old police department and other concessions to thecounty.

The county planned the building to be used as an EOC when itmade the trade, Patterson said, and has been very supportive inproviding him with construction materials.

The public has also stepped forward to support the concept, hesaid. Patterson cited the recent donation of a new stove for thekitchen by a county family as an example of that support.

Patterson, who has done much of the construction work himself,said the stove has not yet been installed because the kitchen isfar from complete.

“We still have a long way to go, but it’s coming along,”Patterson said.

Construction in the storage room, bedroom, civil defense officeand some hallways is complete or nearly complete, he said.

The dispatch office will need very little work, but will have toprovided with radios and other electronics before it can beutilized. The conference room can be used, but needs carpeting,repaneling and other aesthetics, Patterson said.

The civil defense director said he could not say when thebuilding would be ready for use.