By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
FONDA -- Montgomery County officials are moving on a $3.4 million plan to build an addition to the public safety building in Glen in an effort to consolidate departments and upgrade county facilities.
County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said the project is the first phase of a multi-year plan to relocate county agencies and services from buildings located in flood plains, because they have sustained significant damage due to storms.
"We have studied this to death in the last 20 years, and we know what we need to do, and the first step is to get our critical infrastructure out of the flood zone," he said. "It becomes a matter of do we want to pay for this now in a proactive, planned approach, or pay for it later in a reactionary way when something happens? I want to be proactive and protect our resources, and our citizens of the county."
Ossenfort said he is trying to obtain funding through the state's consolidated funding application to offset taxpayers' cost.
The county is requesting $678,000 in capital funds, and $1.695 million in low-interest loans to assist in implementing this initial step, which could begin as early as next spring.
The proposed project includes constructing a 8,500 square-foot wing at the existing public safety building on Clark Drive to house the offices of emergency management, probation, public defender, and coroners, which work directly with the sheriff's department on a regular basis. Currently, the departments are split among the annex building and the office building on Broadway.
The wing would also include vehicle storage to house emergency vehicles currently located at the Department of Public Works garage on Park Street.
"Because of the overlapping services these offices provide, the consolidation to a single location will save in operating costs, and free up space that will allow at-risk offices to locate to a safer facility," Ossenfort said.
Public Works Commissioner Paul Clayburn said the consolidation is the best option for the county, which has already spent $6 million between 2006 and 2013 to repair damage from substantial flooding in the buildings.
"They are only going to flood again," he said. "While county government never shuts down, it is certainly expensive and time-consuming to reoccupy county buildings after they have been flooded."
Besides being in a flood zone, the age of the county annex building has presented several issues from inefficient heating and air conditioning, to accommodating office space in what were formerly classrooms. The building was a school until the county acquired it in the 1970s to use as an office building.
"It's inefficient and it has been a problem for us for so many years," Legislature Chairman Thomas Quackenbush said. "The quicker we can close the annex building, the happier I would be."
Once the new wing is complete, the next phase would be to upgrade the county office building on Broadway to move the remaining departments from Park Street.
Clayburn said discussions on how to do this are ongoing, but there is a possibility of a new building being built specifically for the Department of Social Services. That would leave the county clerk and the Department of Motor Vehicles left in the office building.
"We would isolate those departments, make the necessary upgrades and then move the departments in the annex building to the office building," Clayburn said. "There are a number of departments that have to remain the village of Fonda because it is the county seat, so this would accomplish that."