Public health invites communications to share building
At a meeting Monday evening the Washington County Communications Commission was approached with an opportunity from the Washington County Public Health Department.
“Actually, what we discussed last night is, public health is moving forward on their new building and they asked for either a positive or negative response in the next 60 to 90 days if we would be interested in possibly looking at sites with them — doing a joint venture,” said Cara Sorrells, supervisor of the Washington Communications Center.
The overall response from the communications commission was a positive one, she said.
“It’s just ‘let’s start to talk about something,’ ” Sorrells said, “to see if a joint project would work in a joint location.”
The need for a new building to house the Washington County Communications Center has been discussed for a while, Sorrells said.
“This [the building] is quite old,” she said. “At one time this was the sheriff’s house.”
In the ‘70s a jail was put in to house prisoners, Sorrells said.
The current building is also maxed out when it comes to handling new equipment, Sorrels said.
“This is kind of standard electricity, and when we add more equipment it taxes the building and puts more of a load on it,” she said. “Just the amount of equipment — every year we have more mandates and more equipment we have to bring in. We have equipment in the room now that should really be in its own equipment room [that’s climate-controlled].”
This would help free up much-needed space in the communications room where the dispatchers work, Sorrells said. Each desk has five or six computer screens with a server that is attached to UPS (uninterrupted power supply).
The topic of a new building for the communications center isn’t new. In 2010, architects and consultants drew up plans for different sites that are no longer available, Sorrells said.
“At the time we did the 2010 stuff we said, ’OK, let’s do something, and our timeline is 5 to 7 years,’ ” she said. “You know, we’re about there, and by the time we do something, it will take us a while. It’s time to look at it again.”
Sorrells said she wasn’t surprised the Washington County Public Health Department approached the communications commission with this idea, and likes the idea.
“The trend is to combine resources,” she said.
This may also help with getting grants for a new building, Sorrells said.
The next step for the communications commission would be to have some of its members attend a meeting the Washington County Board of Health will host for discussing building options, Sorrells said. Washington County Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. is on both the Washington County Board of Health and the communications commission and attended the meeting Monday evening, and would let Sorrells know when that would be, she said.
Washington County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski said the idea to approach the communications commission came initially because having one new building versus two would be better for the taxpayers’ dollars and for getting grants.
However, she said it’s still too early to tell what will happen. A decision from the Washington County Supervisors on whether or not the public health department should move forward with building options is still needed, and plans for the building would be needed from both departments.
“We will be looking at our needs and the best options to make a decision,” Pettit-Majewski said. “I know Cara is looking at hers as well.”