Clark County Commissioners approve $7.6 million for 911 center, A.B. Graham rehab

The Clark County commissioners approved nearly $8 million in funding this week for projects to build a new 911 communications center and to renovate one of the county’s historic downtown buildings.

Beginning in 2019, the county is planning to kick off construction on a new 911 communications center and will begin an interior renovation of the A.B. Graham Building, said Jennifer Hutchinson, Clark County administrator. The commissioners approved $7.6 million in bonds to fund the two projects at a meeting earlier this week.

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“The projects are vital to the future of Clark County,” said Rick Lohnes, Clark County commissioner. “Public safety and public services are crucial to our residents. The improvements will allow us to have better technology and streamline operations that will greatly benefit both our residents and our visitors. We’ve been working on upgrading the 9-1-1 dispatch center for several years and we’re happy to see it come to fruition.”

Both the 911 center and the updates to the A.B. Graham Building were identified as priorities in the county’s most recent strategic plan, Hutchinson said. The county is still in talks with the city for a proposal to create a unified countywide 911 dispatch center, Hutchinson said. In the meantime, she said the county is moving ahead with plans to build the new facility. No specific site has been finalized, but she said the county is considering land along Home Road close to the Clark County Combined Health District.

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The county is in the process of selecting an architect for that project, she said.

“We are building the center as if it can handle both the county and city’s volume of 911 calls,” Hutchinson said.

The funding approved by the commissioners will provide $5.1 million to build the facility as well as replacing and refurbishing technology. The current dispatch center is located at the Public Safety Building, 130 N. Fountain Ave.

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The county will also provide $2.5 million for interior renovations for the A.B. Graham Building, she said.

The building, which provides space for several county offices, was built in 1901 and Hutchinson said it’s unclear when the site last received any significant improvements. The funding approved this week will cover the cost to install new heating and air conditioning, fire suppression, plumbing and electrical systems. The county recently replaced windows and improved the exterior of the building in 2017.

“These are projects that should have been done years ago but when you had the recession and the downturn in the economy it just wasn’t feasible in that time,” she said.

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The A.B. Graham building houses the offices of the Clark County Auditor, Clark County Treasurer and the Clark County Recorder, as well as some Domestic Relations courts. Workers in those offices will be relocated to other sites downtown so they can continue to serve residents while the renovations are taking place.

“It’s going to be more cost-effective and efficient if we have the building as empty as we can while we do these improvements,” Hutchinson said.

County officials previously told the News-Sun there are issues with out-of-date electrical and HVAC systems, inefficient storage and an overall lack of modernity that people expect to see in the building.

Clark County retained its credit rating this month from Moody’s Investors Service, with the firm citing the county’s growing reserves and prudent management. Hutchinson said the county’s solid credit will help it secure the bonds needed for the projects at a reasonable rate.

The county will likely repay the cost of the two projects over a roughly 20-year period.

The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of Clark and Champaign county government. For this story, the paper reported on a decision this week by the Clark County commissioners to approve funding for a new 911 dispatch center and renovations to a historic county building.

By the numbers:

$7.6 million — Total bonds approved

$5.1 million — Bonds approved for dispatch center

$2.6 million — Funding approved for A.B. Graham Renovations

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