By Jake Palmateer

Staff Writer

ONEONTA _ The city is considering the construction of an emergency operations center at the former armory garage on Fairview Street.

A request for proposals was issued this week for a contractor to perform architectural services on the city-owned garage, City Purchasing Ageny Edith Polhamus said Thursday.

Converting the garage into an EOC _ which would be a command and control center for city officials during emergencies and disasters _ is estimated to cost between $35,000 and $385,000, depending on the scope of the work, according to a preliminary survey.

An architectural study of the garage, which is currently used for storage by the city, would give a more accurate assessment of what the cost might be, said Seventh Ward Alderman Lizabeth Shannon, chairwoman of the Board of Public Safety,

"Just because we've put out an RFP doesn't mean we're committed to building this. It means that we are gathering more information, which we will review during the budget process this fall," Shannon said.

In times of emergencies, such as the June 2006 floods, the Public Safety Building that houses the police and fire departments, as well as city court, has served as an EOC.

But a study of the city's emergency communications networks performed last year by the company ECC Technologies indicated the Public Safety Building is undersized for an EOC.

For several years before that, the city had explored using the basement of the former Armory across the street, which is now the Asa C. Allison Municipal Building, as the site of a new EOC.

"This is an idea that has been under consideration for quite some time," Shannon said.

But last month, when aldermen met during a Board of Public Safety meeting, the focus was on using the garage across the street instead of the Allison Building, in part due to concerns the Oneonta Teen Center in the basement of that building would have to be relocated.

Other sites, including an expansion of the Public Safety Building and City Hall were also considered at one time, but fell out of favor.

"Based on city experience with previous emergencies and inadequate EOC facilities, we have learned that it is important to locate and design the EOC so that emergency response personnel, key decision makers, and city officials have a space to meet and work that is separate from the day-to-day operations of the Public Safety Building and City Hall," Shannon said.

Although widespread emergencies and disasters rarely happen in the city, the EOC is envisioned to be a place for fire and police training exercises and public meetings, Shannon said.

"The city has no intention of investing in a building that will only be used for large emergencies and be vacant the rest of the time," Shannon said.

Polhamus said the proposals from architectural firms are due back to the city by June 17.

The design study is expected to cost between $10,000 to $20,000.

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