News : New 911 Center Enters Final Stretch
Las Cruces, NM, USA, Jan 18, 2016 -- Construction of a new 911 call center, which will serve residents throughout Doña Ana County, has entered the final stretch.
The project has seen several delays, putting it months behind schedule. But it is still within budget, according to county and 911 call-center officials.
Staff with the 911 dispatch center organization, known as the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority, have been eager to move into the new building, which will replace an aging and outdated facility near Lohman Avenue and South Main Street.
MVRDA Executive Director Hugo Costa said the work is in its final weeks.
"There's finally light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "We're getting real close; it looks like we'll probably move in there, optimistically, by the end of March."
Work remains to be done in the electronics and technology room that serves as the brain of the building, officials said. The parking lots still must be paved. And some landscaping is left to be done.
In two rooms of the building, corrections had to be made after a audio-visual technology subcontractor was switched out mid-project, Costa said.
Contractors carved out a few channels in the already-set concrete to re-align conduit to its proper placement, according to officials. Work was ongoing last week as part of the fix.
A tour last week of the 16,700-square-foot building, located north of the county government center off Motel Boulevard, revealed a structure that looks largely finished. Carpet, paint and tile are in place throughout most of the facility, as is much of the furniture.
A spacious dispatch room — where emergency communications personnel will keep in touch with law enforcement, other public safety agencies and community residents — is filled with consoles and office furniture. In all, the room contains 25 work stations for dispatchers, Armando Cordero, facilities manager for Doña Ana County, said.
The substantive work has been finished on the overall building, Cordero said.
"The asphalt, parking lot and landscaping are the remaining things," he said. "It looks great."
Frank Silva, a landscaping contractor, examines plans at the new Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority building, located north of the County Government Center off Motel Boulevard in Las Cruces. Landscaping is one of a few remaining chores that must be finished.
The building has electricity, but the natural gas hook-up is expected to be completed in coming days, Cordero said.
A Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said the new MVRDA call center has been "a long time coming."
"The people who work in that facility are the literal life-savers in our community and they have been working in a building that was never designed to serve that purpose," Kelly Jameson said. "We are thrilled that this project was finally able to become a reality — not just for the MVRDA employees, but for everyone in our community who depends on first responders who are dispatched through 911."
The project, which had an original completion date of early summer 2015, has seen a number of delays. County officials said in early September the project was nearly five months behind schedule, which they attributed to a contracted architect failing to sign off on key documents in a timely way. Asked last week if the county was still having difficulties dealing with the architect, Cordero said the problems cleared up after coverage of the issue by news media.
Costa said the switching out of the audio-visual subcontractor required redesign of previous work, adding to the delay.
Even so, Costa said, MVRDA operations have been based out of the current building for 27 years. If extra time is needed to make sure everything will function correctly, he said he doesn't mind that.
"I'd rather see things done right rather than rushed," he said.
Two rooms in the new call center will hold arrest warrants, which law enforcement officers must be able to pick up around the clock. County officials have said a key feature is a drive-up window that will allow police officers to stay in their cars to get the required documents so they don't have to leave a detainee unattended.
"For DASO, it will be convenient for our records custodians who shuffle warrants and other paperwork daily between offices and also for deputies who are required to pick up warrants from MVRDA," Jameson said in an email. "The drive-thru window will make those routine tasks more much more efficient."
Costa has said a key problem with the 911 operations in the downtown area is the building's lack of security infrastructure, such as an enclosure.
The new building features a protective wall that can withstand an impact, county officials said.
Costa agreed the new building will be safer for employees.
"For the residents of the county, they're going to have a state-of-the-art facility," he said. "For our staff, we're going to have a safe and comfortable environment."
By mid-February, Cordero said, staff will be able to begin testing out operations in the building.
Costa said he plans to have MVRDA employees do training in the new building at first because, along with the new facility, there's new technology. Also, that will give MVRDA a chance to test the systems out and make sure they'll work before the final switchover in operations is made from the old building to the new building.
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Cordero said a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will be hosted before the building becomes operational, will give the public a chance to see the facility inside and out. It could be one of the few opportunities to do so. That's because the building will be a secured facility once it becomes operational, Cordero said. The event hasn't been scheduled yet.
The final piece of the building will be transferring a microwave-transmitting and-receiving dish from the downtown building to a tower that's already installed at the new facility, Costa said. That's the final piece to achieve the full transition.
"It's all going to happen within a matter of hours on the same day," Costa said.
Las Cruces Police Department spokesman Dan Trujillo said the new 911 call center will be a positive for the area.
"MVRDA and the entire 911 call center crew play a vital role in the safety and well-being of our community," he said. "Their new home is much needed and will give MVRDA space to continue their exceptional work that benefits all of us."
Doña Ana County Commissioner Ben Rawson, who was elected last week as vice chair of the MVRDA board, said he's "looking forward to the building being operational."
"I would like to see it progressing quicker," he said. "But it is the most advanced 911 center in the entire state. It is something for us to be very proud of."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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