County 911 center outgrows century-old building

Becky Campbell • Aug 28, 2013 at 6:57 AM

If the walls and halls of the Washington County 911 center could talk, they would have many a story to tell about the ongoings there the past 100 years or so.

The building served as the city’s post office from 1913 until 1938 and later became the county courthouse — where there were numerous trials and court hearings, including a well-publicized murder that occurred during a divorce proceeding.

In 1987, after the Downtown Center opened and the court offices moved, the building was handed over to the Emergency Communications District to house 911 dispatchers.

Director Bob McNeill said the center has not only outgrown the space, but the cost of keeping up the 100-year-old building is prohibitive.

The roof leaks, there’s termite damage, the ceilings have asbestos and the ornate cornices are beginning to drop from the two-story exterior.

“We’ve looked at trying to get some structural things done that we think could be a potential problem, but we’re looking at $300,000,” just to clean, repair and reseal the cornices, he said.

“My board thought it would be best to start looking at something new.”

But that task is apparently easier said than done — at least affordably.

“We’ve had a Realtor looking, and we’ve looked at several buildings in the last several months but nothing has been suitable for various reasons,” McNeill said.

“We’ve looked for a building for about a year,” with no luck, McNeill said. That’s when the search for an existing structure turned to property suitable to the center’s needs.

McNeill said the center needs an acre and a half to two acres so there’s room for an 8,000 to 10,000 square foot building and parking for at least 30 vehicles. That option would likely cost $1.5 million to $2 million.

The property also has to have line of sight to Buffalo Mountain, where the communication tower is located.

“The best (location) would be close to Buffalo Mountain because of our signal,” he said.

With no good prospective property in sight at this point, the center will stay put with the leaky roof and falling cornices.

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