Ground broken on new 911 Center

BAKERSVILLE – Choked-up and teary-eyed, Mitchell County 911 Director Stephanie Wiseman could muster only a few words when addressing the crowd after ground was officially broken Friday, June 8, at the site for Mitchell County’s new 911 Center.

“This is amazing,” she said.

County officials and others involved in the project gathered at the site of the 3,200 square-foot building, 117 Long View Drive in Bakersville, to celebrate the project.

“Of all the projects to pay attention to, one of the biggest was the out county’s new 911 center,” said Matthew “Vern” Grindstaff, chair of the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners. “Our 911 employees have been in an inadequate FEMA trailer since 2000 and we all, especially those who work for 911, know what a blessing this is.”

The county-owned property is near the county courthouse on Long View Drive, just north of downtown Bakersville on the left-hand side as the road bends around before heading to the top of the hill.

The building is a project that almost did not happen after Mitchell County received a $2 million grant from the state 911 Board to help pay for the building with an estimated cost of $4.79 million. Funding problems began after a bid opening Tuesday, March 20, at the county administration building when the lowest bid came in at nearly $1 million more than the county had available.

County officials and others involved in the project went to Raleigh Friday, April 20, to ask for the additional funding. In a 4-3 vote, the state 911 board granted the $1.1 million needed to proceed with construction.

“Every one of us has worked diligently on this project,” Grindstaff said. "Chuck Vines was county manager when the project began, and current county manager Kathy Young has continued the effort. It should be less than a year from now when we stand here and cut the purple ribbon."

Communications consultant Phil Penny, of Mission Critical Partners, the firm hired to manage the project, said the groundbreaking marked the end of a “long journey” and praised the dedication and hard work of everyone involved. Mission Critical Communications Specialist Craig Schulz said he’s “tickled to be a part of the project” and he looks forward to seeing the finished result.

“I’m proud to say this new facility does not cost Mitchell County taxpayers a single penny,” Grindstaff said. “I’d like to thank Yancey, Avery and McDowell counties because they signed on to make our 911 center their backup center and it helped us get this funding.”

Senior telecommunicator Jimmy English began working with Mitchell County 911 in 1996.

“In my time here I’ve never been in a building that was built for 911 communications,” he said. “This is great.”

The Board of Commissioners chose Gastonia-based architectural firm Stewart-Cooper-Newell to design the center and manage its construction.

The MItchell News

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