With Chairwoman Nora Patterson recusing herself because of her husband’s business ties, the Sarasota County Commission voted 4-0 Wednesday to narrow to two the number of prospective sites for the new Emergency Operations Center.
One of them is a county-owned parcel at 1301 Cattlemen Road. The County Commission has been working on a new location for several years, since learning that its Administration Center on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota could not withstand a hurricane stronger than Category 3.
The board also gave unanimous approval to a request from staff that it be allowed to seek a time extension for a $1 million federal grant through the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The funds would be used for the design and construction of the new EOC.
Carolyn Eastwood, of the Public Works Department said the grant is set to expire May 31, 2012, and it is linked to the Cattlemen site. A memo to the County Commission from Interim County Administrator Terry Lewis said the grant may be in jeopardy because of federal budget deficit reduction efforts.
Eastwood reminded the County Commission it had directed staff July 26 to advertise a request for information to determine whether other sites in the county would be appropriate for the EOC. That request netted four options: 100 Cattlemen Road, 861 Beneva Road, 7060 Professional Parkway and 5538 Lockwood Ridge Road.
The commission’s vote directed staff to consider examination of the Professional Parkway property and 1301 Cattlemen Road, along with detailed cost estimates.
During her presentation, Eastwood explained that staff had undertaken a preliminary evaluation to determine whether each site met the necessary criteria for consideration.
Those criteria include the need for two ways in and out as well as access by paved roads.
“If we did have a disaster, then (other communities) might come to our aid,” she said.
Furthermore, responding local government entities would have to be assured their vehicles could reach the EOC without problems, Eastwood said.
The site also needs to be within a mile of public transportation, Eastwood said, because the new EOC will house the 911 Call Center. Some of its employees live in the southern part of the county, she added, and utilize public transportation.
It also was preferable for the site to be appropriately zoned, she said, so the County Commission would not have to seek rezoning action.
Yet another concern, she said, would be the construction of a communications tower, which could be as tall as 150 feet. However, she cautioned, staff at this point does not know for certain how tall the tower will have to be.
Eastwood said staff had not been able to determine whether the communications tower would be permitted on the Professional Parkway site. Staff had contacted the neighboring homeowners association, she said, but the HOA board members had not indicated whether the tower would win their endorsement.
Commissioner Jon Thaxton recommended eliminating the Lockwood Road site because of the configuration of the property and the fact that it is located in the middle of a residential area.
He also suggested eliminating the Beneva Road site. Commissioner Christine Robinson concurred that it was problematic, because a senior citizens facility backs up to the property.
The Beneva Road site also is located in the 100-year flood plain, and the communications tower would not be allowed on that site.
Requirements for the county’s Emergency Operations Center
Because the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center would need to function 24 hours a day, seven days a week, during the time of a natural disaster, county staff set the following requirements for the site of the facility:
• Access available from more than one road.
• Access to I-75 available from two paved roads, with the interstate no more than 5 miles away.
• Public transportation available within 1 mile.
• No close proximity to areas of dense vegetation or high trees.
• Sufficient distance from neighboring facilities to avoid threats from hazardous materials, for example, and other threats.
• Location above the 100-year flood plain.
• Location above the Category 5 hurricane storm surge elevation.
• Accessibility of water and sewer service.
• Accessibility to two disparate physical routes for data connectivity.