Clayton County BOS hears emergency management building plan

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By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The ongoing discussion over allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the construction of a new emergency management building continued at a recent Clayton County Board of Supervisors meeting. The county’s emergency management coordinator, Sarah Moser, was in attendance to talk about the project, specifically building design, storage space, possible parking issues and whether it would limit future expansion. 


The discussion has been on the table since ARPA funds were released in March, when $3,408,688 was allocated to Clayton County “to provide state, local and Tribal governments with the resources needed to respond to the pandemic and its economic effects.”


The proposed new building would be located on the property of the Clayton County Office Building, which is also where the emergency management office is currently located. 


One of the major reasons for the proposal is the inadequacy of the current storage system, which has emergency management resources spread far and wide, stored currently in at least seven different locations and buildings around the county. 


This causes several issues when it comes to emergency preparedness and response, and it also creates inefficiencies. One of those inefficiencies is when Moser has to take inventory of what the county has, leading to her having to “track everything down.” This is made more problematic when Moser doesn’t have control over access to some of those other buildings, which could lead to delays in creating an accurate inventory. 


On top of that, the lack of control over the buildings can lead to issues beyond simple access, such as simply getting the equipment out. 


“Obviously, our equipment isn’t their top priority, so it could end up in an area where it is not easily accessed, which is understandable,” Moser explained. 


Although understandable, it is little comfort if that equipment is needed quickly during a flood or a pandemic. While Moser was quick to point out the kindness of entities that have offered up space to store some of the emergency management equipment, such as the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and Elkader and Strawberry Point fire departments, Moser doesn’t want to run the risk of becoming a burden. 


“We don’t want to over stay our welcome and their generous hospitality,” Moser said. “If our main items were stored in one location, near the EMA office, it would be more convenient and efficient.” 


The one notable exception to this current system is the strategic placement of sandbags, but they would most likely be moved into the new building upon completion, as would other items like Hesco barriers, a six-inch trash pump that is on a trailer, a shelter trailer and communication/incident command trailer, just to name a few. 


The building would not just store emergency management equipment, but county maintenance as well. Beyond storage, the building would have the capability of being utilized as a drive-thru clinic, useful during a pandemic or even as a voting location, “if the need arises,” Moser said. 


During the discussion, one sticking point was a loss of parking space, depending on where the project is ultimately built. Moser doesn’t believe it will have a major impact, though. 


“Where the building is going to be located shouldn’t impact any future expansion of the current county building. If it was moved over, it could impact some parking depending on how they design a building expansion and parking area,” Moser explained.


As of right now, the proposal is still under consideration and no final decision has been reached. 

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