Rising on just over two acres of inconspicuous land north of Lacombe is a 16,000-square-foot structure that will eventually be filled with high tech communications gizmos that could improve emergency response in St. Tammany Parish. When it opens its doors, perhaps later this year, the parish’s new 911 communications headquarters will be one of the more futuristic operations on the North Shore.
Its opening will allow the parish’s Communications District 1 to move from the old former parish courthouse in downtown Covington to a more modernistic facility along Krentel Road off Louisiana 434 just north of Interstate 12. It will be almost double the size of the existing 911 dispatch center.
“It will be one of the most complex buildings in the parish,” said Rodney Hart, executive director of the communication district.
Construction on the $9 million facility began in April and should be completed by the fourth quarter of 2018. Officials hope to have it fully operational by the end of the year, creating a consolidation of sorts.
The new facility will house all of the emergency dispatching in the parish. In addition to its headquarters in downtown Covington, the communications district currently has other dispatch locations for other police and fire departments in the parish.
Hart said the building is being designed to meet the emergency communications needs of the parish well into the future. “We don’t want to have to go through a move every few years,” he said. “We want something that will serve us for years to come.”
Funds to operate the communications district are derived solely from 911 fees on households, and businesses telephone land lines and cell phones.
Officials have said having a single 911 center will be more cost effective. Money the district now spends on rent for the dispatch locations can be put toward the debt on the new facility. The district has been paying $100,000 a year to the parish to rent space at the former courthouse on Boston Street, an outdated building that was pressed into service as a communication center more than a decade ago.
The district, which operates as a separate entity from parish government, has been sharing space in the former courthouse with the parish’s Emergency Operations Center. Plans were drawn to build a new EOC near Lacombe, just north of the new 911 center. But those plans are now on hold, parish spokesman Ronnie Simpson said.
The old courthouse, at the northeast corner of Boston and New Hampshire streets, was built in the late 1950s and remained in service for 44 years until the parish opened a new $65 million courthouse a few blocks away in 2003. The former courthouse then became the parish’s Emergency Operations Center and Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, plus the 911 call…