by Sue webber
Nearly 11 months after breaking ground, work on the new $33.7 million Hennepin County 911 Emergency Communications Facility is progressing on schedule, according to Sheriff Rich Stanek.
“It’s on time, it’s on schedule, it’s on track, it’s on budget,” Stanek said.
The structure, located adjacent to the Adult Corrections Facility (known as “the workhouse”) at 1145 Shenandoah Lane in Plymouth, will be ready to begin accommodating staff in July, Stanek said, but won’t be “up and operational” until November or December. The new space will feature 21 dispatch consoles, a 9,500-square-foot radio installation and electronic mobile equipment storage garage.
“It is a no-frills facility design-wise, but technologically it will be a state-of-the-art communications facility,” Stanek said. “We really kept cost in mind. Original estimates were in the $50 million range. We got it down to $33.7 million.”
Once the county takes occupancy of the new facility, it will take a while to move the staff there, Stanek said.
“We can’t close the current facility in Golden Valley because we have a 24-7 life-saving operation there,” he said.
The new facility in Plymouth will replace a dispatch center at 9300 Naper St. in Golden Valley that was built in 1948.
“Technology-wise and infrastructure-wise, we’ve gone as far as we can go with the Golden Valley facility,” Stanek said. “It’s been added onto three times.”
The Golden Valley facility will remain operational for some period of time after the move to Plymouth, Stanek said.
“If there are any glitches at the new facility, we have to have a place to fall back on,” he said.
The Golden Valley facility houses an 800 MHz hub for the state that provides a common frequency for different agencies to use for communication. A 300-foot communications tower will remain there, according to Stanek.
A 12- to 18-member transitional team will be in place temporarily while full-time staff is moved from Golden Valley to the new Plymouth facility, Stanek said. The Golden Valley facility has 110 employees.
County officials said the new communications facility is needed to ensure uninterrupted 911 services and to accommodate future advancements in communications technology.
For example, Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) will allow 911 calls to be accepted from any networked device, along with real-time text, images, video and other data.
“Seventy percent of the calls we receive now come via cellphones,” Stanek said.
Between 650,000 and 750,000 emergency 911 calls are received through the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office 911 Dispatch Center each year.
The center currently serves 24 law enforcement agencies, and will include Golden Valley in January 2015. The center also serves 21 fire departments, including Hanover, which was added in 2013.
Five Hennepin County cities will continue to maintain their own dispatch services, including Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Richfield and St. Louis Park.
“We are always in discussion with other cities about consolidating government services; it’s always about local control,” Stanek said. “We don’t charge cities an additional fee for 911 dispatching because it’s covered by property taxes.”