New Putnam County Building to Help in Times in Trouble

The world of emergency operations and preparedness radically changed on Sept. 11, 2001. Even small communities and counties haven’t been immune to the more stringent requirements passed down from the government.

“That’s the way we live now,” Putnam County board chairman Duane Calbow said.

For its part, Putnam County is trying to better serve its citizens in times of emergency by establishing an Emergency Management Agency building.

The building, best known as the former steelworkers union hall in Hennepin, has been purchased for $85,000 — that price includes six acres and many of the contents, such as office furniture.

The majority of that, $75,000, came from a state non-matching grant, according to Putnam County EMA director Jim Goldasich. The other $10,000 came from the Emergency Management Agency county budget.

Finding a suitable building and location wasn’t easy.

For over three years, Goldasich and members of the building committee, with cooperation of the county board, searched for a potential EMA building.

“We had offers of leasing land,” Calbow said.

The steelworkers union hall became available late into the search, Goldasich said.

The building was the best fit, both in terms of price and location, Calbow said.

Image courtesy of the News Tribune

The location, right off Route 26 and in close proximity to Route 71, offers easy access for emergency personnel and anyone who may come to Putnam County to assist during a disaster situation.

Putnam County has worked with local and outside agencies for emergencies in the past - usually at the site of a disaster. One room in particular in this building will allow the emergency agency representatives to work together in the same location every time, with the availability of desks, phones, computers and fax machines for communications with each other and outside entities.

This will be done in a controlled access area known as the emergency operation center that is located in the center of the facility.

“Most of this (equipment) in this room was donated by State Farm,” said Robert Cofoid, who serves as county death investigator and assists with Putnam County EMA.

The telephone system was purchased at a greatly reduced price.

“We’re trying to cut as close as we can cost-wise,” Cofoid said.

In addition to the emergency operation center, the building also has a public heating and cooling room which doubles as a training room, a small conference room, a communication room, and offices for Goldasich, the assistant coordinator, the death investigator and public information office.

This building does not affect, nor will it interfere, with the Emergency 911 Center at the sheriff’s department. 911 is a separate working area, but will be in direct communication with the emergency services facility when necessary, Cofoid said.

A storage area will house the equipment, such as a service vehicle and trailers, an on-site communication trailer, a light tower and generator, which has been traditionally spread out over the county.

The facility, if needed, could be used now if an emergency occurred. Training with the equipment has not begun yet, but is expected to begin soon. Total completion will be in the first quarter of 2014.

Calbow said providing a safe place for residents to go when they are in the midst of some of their worst times is a responsibility of the county.

“It’s an obligation. It’s what we must do,” Calbow said. “We take that ...very seriously.”

Source: News Tribune