A local construction company broke ground on a new multimillion dollar emergency response center Friday in Soldotna.
The $5.3 million project is an 8,700-square-foot, two story building that will house 911 dispatch, the Office of Emergency Management and the Central Emergency Service fire administration. Right now they are housed in separate buildings. That sticker price includes new dispatch equipment.
The borough awarded a contract to Soldotna-based G & S Construction to build it.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough is funding $1.39 million of the project and the rest is being paid for with federal grants, said borough project manager Kevin Lyon.
"We're very excited that it's finally started," said CES Fire Marshall Gary Hale. "We would have liked to be in it yesterday."
The new building will be directly behind the Soldotna Police Station on Wilson Lane.
Lyon said he hopes the building will be in use by July 1 next year.
Discussion on building an emergency response center started when the borough assembly put this project on the legislative priorities list in 2003.
The assembly approved appropriation of the funds with ordinance 2004-19-29 in January.
Hale said that right now the fire administration is spread across their current building and the new location will help concentrate their operations. Plus, it gives the emergency services direct access to Kenai and Nikiski and is also on the main artery to Seward and Homer, he said.
"It acts as the nucleus of the Kenai Peninsula," he said.
Another benefit, he said, is that it will create a better working atmosphere.
David Gibbs, emergency manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said the current 911 dispatch center is "substandard in every way." There has been a steady increase in 911 calls and more room is needed so they can expand those operations, he said.
"We just don't have the physical space to do that," he said.
The new building will also increase the security of the dispatch center, he said.
Gibbs said the Office of Emergency Management is located in a portable unit behind the borough building. OEM needs a dedicated space which the new building will provide, he said. When there is an emergency, there is a need to increase personnel, he said, and now they will have space to do that.
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