“Consolidation” was County Executive Mark Hackel’s catchword Wednesday as he unveiled plans for an $11 million facility to house the county’s chief players in public safety in one location.
“We’re going to bring together (county services) and build something beyond anyone’s imagination, not just within the county, or the state, but throughout the country,” Hackel said. “I think this is going to be without question something that is going to be a model for others to replicate.”
Referred to as a “state-of-the-art operations and communications center,” this facility will serve as a central office for the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office dispatch (911 calls), the Department of Roads Traffic Operations Center, the Information Technology Data Center and the county’s Emergency Management & Communications Department.
By consolidating these four elements of public safety and their various technologies in a single place, Emergency Management Coordinator Vicki Wolber said the county should be able to “reduce and eliminate redundant systems,” while improving the county’s emergency response.
Renovations focus on state-of-the-art technology
Rather than construct a new building, the roughly 25,000-square-foot center will be built inside the older section of the Macomb County Department of Roads (MCDOR) building on Groesbeck. Renovations will begin in the next few months and Hackel said the new facility should be up and running by this time next year.
Proposed renovations include a 20-by-40-foot video wall that will be accessible to all units in the building, an emergency power generator, eight traffic monitoring positions, 24 dispatch positions, office/conference space and room to accommodate more than 70 staff.
Architectural mock-ups of the $11 million facility depict a two-story structure that vaguely resembles a NASA control room. The video wall, containing 54 70-foot monitors, will be the focal point of the center, visible from both floors and able to project multiple images ranging from Doppler radar to real-time video shot by cameras currently found in intersections throughout the county.
Funding supplied by grants, drug money and current budgets
Funding for this project will come from a variety of sources, including roughly 10 percent ($770,500) from drug forfeitures made by the sheriff’s department. The Michigan Department of Roads/Federal Highway Administration will supply $3.98 million, while the county’s capital improvement budget will add another $3.57 million.
Federal grant programs will cover almost $2 million and if Macomb County’s state representatives are successful in obtaining a grant from the state’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP), another $2 million will be available for additional renovations.
For taxpayers concerned about cost, Hackel says, “We’re not looking for money, or bonds or increasing taxes … we’re going to utilize current staff” whose salaries are covered by the monies currently allocated their respective departments.
Year-to-year operational costs will be covered by the budgets approved for the sheriff’s office, emergency management, MCDOR and IT.
“We don’t anticipate having to go out for more money,” Hackel said.
Cities encouraged to consolidate own dispatch with county
And while the center’s primary purpose is to consolidate county services, Hackel said any municipalities wishing to partner with the county to enhance their own emergency services are welcome to do so.
“This facility is being built for purposes of Macomb County,” Hackel said. “We're not trying to reach out and take over somebody else’s dispatch center. We want to partner if they’re interested, but only if they’re interested.”
So far, Clinton Township, Shelby Township and Sterling Heights have expressed interest in this partnership.
“The 911 center is the backbone of law enforcement operations,” said Sheriff Anthony Wickersham. “Dispatchers have first contact with our citizens that are in need, providing real-time information to responding public safety personnel is going to make our job a lot easier and safer, providing better services to the citizens we protect. This center will provide that environment today and for many decades to come.”