Dorchester County is considering building a new emergency operations center and making other capital improvements later this year.
On Monday night, county council members approved the first reading of an ordinance that would issue $16 million in bonds to pay for the improvements.
Other proposed projects include completing renovations on the county law enforcement complex, funding the purchase of the Pine Hill Commerce Park, funding construction projects and acquiring land for transportation infrastructure and future public facilities.
The largest project would be building the new emergency operations center which officials say the county needs now because it has outgrown its current EOC.
“Right now the EOC is about a 1500 square-foot room with several offices outside our dispatch center,” said Daniel Prentice, Deputy Administrator and CFO for the county. “When you bring in 30 to 40 staff [members] for an emergency event such as a hurricane or a flood or something similar, that room fills up quickly… And it lacks a lot of the modern technology that you’d expect.”
Potential locations for the proposed new center include building it in front of the current EOC on Deming Way near Summerville or next to the county’s EMS building on Highway 78.
The law enforcement complex is adjacent to the current EOC and would be renovated after the new EOC is built. Law enforcement would be able to utilize the space currently occupied by emergency management staff, as well.
The Pine Hill Commerce Park is a business park, located near the intersection of Highway 17-A and Highway 61, that Prentice said the county has already purchased.
“The county saw it as a strategic purchase for that future potential for economic growth in the county,” said Prentice.
The park contains 11 sites that are ready for development and the county would sell them to businesses. It also has trails and ponds that could potentially be opened to the public in the future.
Two more readings of the ordinance are required before the bonds can be issued. The bonds would be paid off over time and would not require a tax increase.
Prentice said that if the ordinance is approved, the new emergency operations center should be built within the next two years.