LOCK HAVEN - The Clinton County commissioners hired a consulting firm Thursday to help with the creation of a new 911 center at the former Flemington Elementary School.
Commissioners Joel Long, Pete Smelts and Jeff Snyder unanimously approved the measure, while waxing eloquent about their recent visit to a similar venture in Elk County.
The board purchased the school building in April from Keystone Central School District, and this is one of the first steps toward the transformation of the facility, a process that is expected to take 18 to 20 months.
The company, MCM Consulting Group Inc., of 107 Kathy Ann Court, McMurray, Pa., is a privately held consulting firm dedicated to serving the public safety, government and healthcare community.
The company is heavily involved in tower construction, systems designs and facility planning, and has managed the design and construction of 911 centers, radio systems, training programs and needs assessments for public safety.
Another player in the mix is EADS Engineers, which has been involved in a no-cost assessment of the facility, and is likely to land a contract for its services.
The commissioners agreed to a sum of $59,950, for MCM, but about $42,000 of that will be coming from state grants related consumer fees generated via operation of wired and wireless networks, according to Emergency Services Director Kevin Fanning.
Also part of the discussion revolving around a new 911 center, was the commissioners' recent visit to Elk County to see that new facility. The local interest in that project was high, as Elk County recently completed the transformation of an educational facility into a new 911 center, and the commissioners wanted to ask questions about the process of people who have already finished the task.
Several other county employees traveled along to keep abreast of local possibilities.
The Elk County EMA department had been located in a 1950s ranch-style house along Boot Jack Road since 1991. During late February, the department moved to a new home, upgrading its computer systems and facilitating the move toward a regional 911 phone system.
In the end, the Elk County facility cost about $3.84 million from start to finish, but the Clinton County commissioners believe local costs won't come near that, especially given the initial cost of $1 for purchase of the facility.
Locally, the commissioners plan to move the county's present 911 center out of the basement of the county-owned Susque-View Inc. extended care facility near Lock Haven Hospital, and into the school after renovations are complete.
The Flemington school complex had been assessed at $740,000. The commissioners have said the purchase and conversion of the former school will be "pushing $1 million."
Most of the financial struggles will occur in the area of construction, Fanning said, adding that the commissioners and staff are "knocking on every door" to accrue additional non-county funds toward the initiative.
"Elk County has a very nice facility," Long said, "probably more than what we plan to do here, although we will be taking care of our needs for a center.'
Smeltz also noted that the Elk County building was much larger than he anticipated and probably larger than want Clinton County needs, although the populations served is of a similar size.
All three commissioners said they are in the "idea gathering" stages and wanted to move ahead with extensive planning and team building before taking steps toward actual construction.
The district's Flemington building was used as the district's technology center and tax office, but late last year, the school board announced it would be abandoning the facility as a cost-saving measure, along with the present administration building in Lock Haven and the Lamar Township Elementary School.
The "technology" part of that equation, as well as the cost of the building itself, is expected to save the county government on costs over new construction.
The most recent former board decided to create a storage facility at the Clinton County Correctional Facility in McElhattan and they designed the building as a possible home for a new 911 center.
Long, who took part in those decisions, said the storage building was "the best option at the time" and the commissioners couldn't have known that this particular opportunity could open up.
The present-day department offers a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week enhanced service along with a support staff which follows a comprehensive approach to emergency planning and preparedness to insure the safety of residents.
Currently, several related departments, including the county's 911 emergency center, its HAZ-MAT response program and the local emergency management agency, are housed in the basement of Susque-View Home Inc.
While the Flemington facility is large, Commissioner Snyder emphasized that plans are limited to 911 center activities, and are focused right now on the newer section of the building, which was constructed in the 1960s.
The original Flemington school was built in 1919, but additions and renovations have occurred as recently as 1963.