FARMINGTON – The design for the new Franklin County Emergency Operations Center was accepted during the county commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday.
Port City Architecture was hired by the county to conduct an assessment of needs for each of the county departments, and Tuesday afternoon presented a proposed design which involves renovations at the County Courthouse and the construction of a new building attached to the existing Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at County Way.
The new design would allow the county to move offices into county-owned buildings instead of leasing office space.
The District Attorney’s offices would be relocated to the lower level of the county courthouse, which currently houses the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency and storage for Deeds. Currently, the DA’s office is in a leased office a block away from the courthouse.
The first floor, which houses the county administration offices, Probate, and Deeds, would be rearranged to provide a small Probate Courtroom. The small conference room in the county administration offices, which was formerly used for commissioners’ meetings, would be remodeled to create additional small office spaces.
Franklin County EMA and the commissioners’ meetings would both be relocated to County Way. Currently, the county commissioners’ meetings are held in the Superior Courtroom at the courthouse, which has presented some scheduling challenges when court is in session.
At County Way, a new 58-foot by 90-foot construction would be added to the existing Franklin County Sheriff’s Office building. The current building would be taken down to the frame, with a new roof, new windows, siding, and a new layout. The existing building would include a large meeting room for commissioners’ meetings, county trainings, and could be set up as an Emergency Operations Center in the event of a large-scale emergency, such as the flood events earlier this year.
The new County Way building would have an airlock entry and a lobby with public restrooms. This, along with the large meeting room, could be isolated from the rest of the building for after-hours public meetings, to maintain security in the other offices.
The proposal includes offices for Franklin County EMA, the sheriff’s department administrators, Criminal Investigative Division, and IT support, along with an office for the patrol deputies, secure evidence storage, records storage, a fitness room, breakroom, small conference room, an interview room, and a small maintenance garage where the county could perform simple repairs and maintenance on vehicles.
The Franklin County Regional Communications Center would remain in the current location across the parking lot from the sheriff’s office.
Andy Hyland with Port City Architecture said their estimates are $550 per square foot for the new construction and $350 per square foot for the remodel of the existing building at County Way. The total project is estimated at $3.7 million.
Hyland said, “We feel confident with those numbers.”
The renovations at the County Courthouse were not included in that figure, although Hyland said they tried to work around the existing walls and structures in the courthouse to keep costs low.
Senator Susan Collins included $2 million in the federal appropriations budget for this project. If that funding is passed through, the county would need to fund an additional $1.6 million, which cannot be funded through the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Commissioner Bob Carlton asked if the existing structure for the sheriff’s office is stable enough for an addition. Hyland said that the structure is not the greatest, but he believes the building will be adequate. There will be a complete remodel which will make the building more energy efficient.
The location for the proposed expansion at County Way will allow future growth if necessary, ARPA consultant Sue Pratt pointed out. Pratt has been closely involved in the process of the new development.
Carlton asked what happens if the federal funds fall through. Pratt said that they will have a solid plan and construction documents for a project they know is doable. In the past, the commissioners have stated they will not spend additional ARPA funds until they know if they have the federal funds through the appropriations budget.
The commissioners approved the designs presented by Port City and approved moving to Phase Two, which is to go out to bid for a general contractor to work on the project.
This meeting was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and is available for viewing online at MtBlueTV.org