Washington County emergency ops center complete

Washington County emergency ops center complete
Washington County, Iowa, Emergency Operations Center
The Washington County Emergency Operations Center in Washington, Iowa, provides space for local government and emergency officials to gather and coordinate efforts in a disaster. (CANCO photo)

WASHINGTON, Iowa — Construction of a new 7,000 SF, $3.6 million Washington County Emergency Operations Center and 911 dispatch facility is complete, and the building has been turned over to the county by Carl A. Nelson & Company.

The facility, which is hardened against tornadoes and equipped to withstand power outages, will go online in the fall following completion of a radio tower, installation of equipment and training of staff. The new building, which is located between the Washington County Jail and Washington County Sheriff's Office on the city's west side, replaces an antiquated facility in downtown Washington adjacent to the courthouse.

"It’s very functional; not a fancy facility, but incredibly robust,” CANCO Project Manager Matthew Miller told the Washington County Board of Supervisors, as reported by KCII Radio in Washington, "and it’s going to work as a great place for EOC, data center, and dispatch, as we intended."

Carl A. Nelson & Company has completed nearly $79 million worth of construction projects for local governments, school districts and community organizations in Washington County since 2002, working as design-builder, construction manager and general contractor.

For Washington County, the EOC marked the county government's first-ever foray into the construction management method of project delivery, with CANCO in the role of construction manager agent. In that role, the construction manager oversees construction and acts as the Owner's agent, working to ensure quality and value through design review and during work performed by the project's general and subcontractors.

Looking at the finished project, county officials said they were pleased with the experience and would consider using construction management again. And they would tell counterparts in other counties to do the same.

"They'd be nuts to do it without a construction manager," Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Seward, Jr., said, explaining the advice he would give an official who was considering a construction project. Washington County Chief Deputy Shawn Ellingson said having a single contact with CANCO to address questions or concerns, rather than trying to coordinate with multiple contractors and suppliers in-house at the Sheriff's Office, was "priceless, in my book."

Seward, who is a retired law enforcement officer, said the building plan grew from the need to replace the 911 center, which no longer met the county's needs. From that, he said, the decision was made to add an emergency operations center where representatives of city, county and other government entities could gather, along with local elected officials and police, fire and ambulance officials, and others in the event of a disaster.

The process of developing the project began in 2017, Seward said. Consultant input and examples from other Iowa counties helped determine the plan and the budget.

Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Richard Young, who serves on the county 911 committee, said the decision to go with construction management, and to choose CANCO, came from discussion with the mayor of Kalona, Iowa, about a CANCO-led community center project in that Washington County town.

Young said Miller and Project Superintendent Corey Mumme made significant contributions to keeping the project on-time and under budget.

"Without those two out here, with this building, I do not think we would be where we are at today," Young said.

Ellingson, Seward and Young each said they were pleased with the outcome of the CANCO-led project. Ellingson credited Miller for helping to "clean up" the design for a connection of the new building to the existing Sheriff's Office facility, making it "more efficient." The initial design called for a flush connection between the two buildings, which had code, cost and maintenance implications. The final design proposed by Miller relied on enclosed hallways connecting the two buildings between doors into and out of each building.

Seward said he appreciated the construction management team's ability to coordinate the activities of the various contractors to keep the project going smoothly, and having what he described as "an uninterested third-party" hold the builders responsible for meet the project schedule. Even in early days after completion, Ellingson said, CANCO's service to mitigate a water issue after a heavy rain with a permanent fix, and to keep pressure on subcontractors to address a couple of quality issues, has been appreciated.

"Having a construction manager on the site is so nice," Ellingson said. "Although we walk through a lot, we weren't over here every day, eight hours a day, making sure people were doing things right. And (Mumme) was."

Washington County, Iowa, Emergency Operations Center server room
Cable trays and network cable are seen in the server room of the Washington County Emergency Operations and 911 Dispatch Center in Washington, Iowa. Many miles of cable were run in the building to connect equipment necessary for emergency communication. (CANCO photo)
PUBLISHED 7-17-2020