County pursuing grant for new 911 center

BAKERSVILLE – Mitchell County is moving toward submitting its application seeking state funds for a new 5,000-square-foot, $3 million communications center.

The county will submit an application to the state 911 board for a grant to pay for the center, which would house the county’s 911 system and operators. The new facility likely would likely be built next to the courthouse north of Bakersville, based on a proposal designed by a consulting firm.

A major factor that will determine whether the county gets the grant is agreements with neighboring counties that allow the new center to be a backup in the event their 911 centers are evacuated or the phone system went down, for example. 

The state 911 board is pushing counties to develop and submit a backup plan by June 30. 

Stephanie Wiseman, the county’s 911 director, said she is working on agreements with McDowell and Avery counties to make Mitchell County their 911 backup. Yancey County may come on board, too. 

“One center having the capability to backup another basically requires installing the necessary equipment so someone can simply flip a switch to reroute calls,” Wiseman said.

Wiseman is also working to make McDowell County’s 911 system the backup to Mitchell County’s. 

The modular building currently housing Mitchell’s communications center is not, and never was, suitable for the role, according to officials. The building was paid for with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the destructive flooding of 1998. 

It was once a daycare and is approaching a state of disrepair, officials said.

After an assessment of the building – located behind the county administration office in Bakersville – consulting firm Mission Critical provided designs for a new center. Mission Critical is preparing the county’s grant application, Wiseman said. If the county doesn’t get the grant, officials will have to find an alternative way to fund a new communications center.

“We’re going have to do something whether we get funding from the state or not,” said Charles Vines, county manager. 

Much of the equipment in the communications center was purchased in 2009 with grant funds, but advances in technology has rendered most of the software and technology outdated.

The county has its own 911 fund, but the funds can’t go toward a new building. The money can be used for new equipment. 

The deadline to submit grant applications is early June.

The MItchell News

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