New Emergency Operations Center Coming to Fairbanks

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks Borough will build new emergency operations center. At a regular meeting Thursday night, the Borough Assembly approved spending over $1 million in federal and state grant money to put a 2,000 square foot addition on a fire station on Farmers Loop to house the facility.  Borough Emergency Services Director David Gibbs told the assembly it’s critical to the borough’s ability to respond to major incidents.

Gibbs says the center will be specially constructed to withstand floods and earthquakes.  The new facility will replace the borough’s emergency ops center on Peger road, that Gibbs said a federal assessment found to be sub standard.

Gibbs said the inadequacy of the existing center came to a head during the flood of 2008, and that a new Fairbanks facility became the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s the highest priority in Alaska. The idea of taking money from the debt-ridden federal government to build something that could only see minimal use raised questions and some opposition at last night’s assembly meeting.  Former assembly member Mike Prax asked the borough to consider alternatives.

The borough’s Gibbs responded by saying that other entities including the military, state and federal agencies have their own priorities, and in some cases security concerns, that impinge on borough use of their sites.

Questions were also raised about the construction cost of the emergency operations center.  Assembly member Mike Musick, a longtime local contractor, said the cost estimate seems excessive for a relatively small addition to an existing building.

Musick said the estimate comes out to $500 a square foot, but Borough Public Works Director Scott Johnson said that’s what high tech disaster resistant space costs.  An ordinance approving expenditure of the grant funds to pay for the new borough emergency operations center passed on 5 to 3 vote.

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