New Hawkins 911 center almost complete

Jeff Bobo • Apr 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County 911 expects to move out of the basement and into its new facility around the first week of May.

Hawkins County 911 Director Gay Murrell said Thursday it will be nice to have windows at the Central Dispatch office for the first time in the 16-year history of the agency.

Construction has been completed for the new Central Dispatch office at 2291 E. Main St. just east of the Rogersville city limits.

The next step is installation of the communications equipment including a substantial amount of wiring, as well as a new backup generator, which arrived at the facility Thursday afternoon.

With $50 million worth of construction projects under way in Hawkins County — including the new Hawkins County Justice Center/Jail, two new schools and three school additions — the new $600,000 Central Dispatch office construction has been somewhat overshadowed.

But it’s a big deal to Murrell and her dispatchers, who will be moving out of the basement of the H.B. Stamps Public Library and into a new state-of-the-art facility.

“We have been in the basement for 16 years, and we’re making a break,” Murrell said. “We’ve not had any windows, and we’ve had problems with water leaking down the walls. It’s just been like we were stepchildren of the county for a long time.

“So now we’re breaking out, and we have windows in dispatch, and we have windows throughout this building.”

The project was conceived about a year ago, and it’s being paid for with some extra money provided by the state E-911 Board, as well as a loan. Murrell noted that the county isn’t paying any extra to help with the expenses, and in the next fiscal year she won’t be asking for any extra county funding above the regular $140,000 contribution that the county pays 911 every year.

The new facility includes four dispatcher stations, as well as a fifth desktop station in Murrell’s office so she can take 911 calls if needed.

The Hawkins County 911 board of directors did a walk-through of the new facility Thursday. The builder, Investment Contractors Inc., is asking for its final payment, but board members were required to walk through and sign off on the project before the last payment could be made.

With the exception of a few minor details such as the need for a doorstop and a threshold, board members were satisfied with the work.

The peach-colored walls in the offices and hallways received mixed reviews from the board. But Murrell said that color, which is actually called “amber moon,” was selected by her dispatchers. Murrell said she voted for UT orange, and peach was a compromise.

Just as Murrell was explaining to the board that opening day for the new facility relies heavily on arrival and installation of the backup generator, a flatbed truck carrying the generator pulled into the parking lot. Murrell said she hopes that was a good omen for a smooth transition into the new facility.

“Hopefully, no one will even know that we’re moving,” Murrell said. “I hope there’s not going to be any breakdown of (radio) traffic or communications of any sort. Hopefully, we’ll just kind of move like gypsies in the night. The mechanical room, all of that, has to be up and operational before I will even think about moving any of the dispatchers out here.

“There’s going to be several days of testing, and I will not move anyone out here until I know everything is up and running like it should be.”

The old 911 center in the library basement will remain operational with two desktop dispatcher stations, just in case.

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