When it comes to renovating buildings and bringing them into the 21st century technology wise, one can generally expect to see a pretty hefty price tag. However, that is not the case for Upson County when it comes to the renovations done to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is used by the Emergency Management Association. Thanks to a grant from GEMA, the original $24,525.50 project will only cost the county $1,868.32.
Upson County EMA Director Martha Anne McCarty received the reimbursement check from GEMA for $22,657.18 last week and was thrilled so much could be done to improve the EOC and still cost the county such a small amount. The project consisted of raising the floor in the main meeting room in order to have a power and data terminal underneath, as well as making it static free. Several whiteboards have been added, as well as a smart board and computers and a separate conference room.
“These features will give us a better place for everyone to come together in the event of a major disaster,” said McCarty.
However, the component of the renovations that is the most exciting is the conference package part of the internet and computer system. McCarty gave the example of using it for online classes for the fire department. If a training class is full, the system can be used to turn the EOC into a virtual classroom and those present can see the training class and the instructor can see them without having to leave town or wait until another class is available. She noted it has already been used by the Red Cross, as well as the Board of Elections for training classes.
The initial grant McCarty was awarded was for $42,454.10 from GEMA, however through the use of county labor and volunteers she was able to come in well under budget, which contributed to saving the county so much money for the project. She noted Upson County would have had a 15 percent match for the state funds, but the amount it ended up costing is much lower than that. McCarty stated the only work that had to be hired out was an electric contractor and a floor company to install the new floor. The rest of the work was done by Phil Ellerbee, Director of Public Buildings, and his crews; Robert Haney, Director of Information Technology did the IT work, and the Upson County Water Department and Thomaston Fire Department, as well as many others, volunteered their time to help move the equipment into the building. The number of volunteers and the amount of time they helped was counted on the project and contributed to lowering the cost to the county. The rest of the money in the grant will go back to GEMA to be redistributed for other projects.
Upson County has received grants like this before, most recently being used for the purchase and installation of additional weather sirens throughout the county. McCarty stated she is already working on another grant application to install even more weather sirens in the underserved areas of the county.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1