COUNTY COMMISSIONERS DEBATE NEW EOC Headquarters by Mitch E. Perry

10/04/06

Yesterday one of the preeminent hurricane forecasters in the country, Colorado State University researcher William Gray, once again revised his forecast for hurricanes – saying he doesn’t expect any in the remaining 2 months of the season.

If a major storm does go through the Hillsborough County area, however, all eyes and ears will be focused on getting information from the County’s Emergency Operations Center, located on Hanna Street in East Tampa.

But the County’s Emergency Management Director, Larry Gispert, says the current facility is no longer viable in the post 9-11 environment . And he came before the County Commission to ask for their support to commit to paying $45,000 to hire a consulting firm to study a new and expanded emergency operations center (roll tape#1 o.q.�depends on what you want to put in it�)

Gispert then listed all of the factors that the EOC has to contend with, including the fact that 500,000 of the county’s near 1.2 million member population, lives in an evacuation zone, or a mobile home. And 12% of the County’s population are over 65 years of age.

And he went through what has changed in the County since it was built in 1993, starting with the population (roll tape#2 o.q.�at any given time�)

County Commisioner Mark Sharpe has said that he’d like to house other emergency personnel from Tampa and other municipalities, all in one home, another aspect that EOC Director Gispert mentioned (roll tape#3 o.q.�the next problem�)

Gispert said he’d also like to have the Port Authority and Airport Authority inside a new EOC. As well as Debris clearing and Engineering, damage assessment.

Gispert and Sharpe have mentioned a new facility along the lines of the Broward County EOC, which works with 31 different municipalities.

Most Commissioners appeared enthusiastic about such a study, but worried about all EMS personnel housed under one roof. Ronda Storms (roll tape#4 o.q.�sat phones�)

But that enthusiasm soon gave way to caution when it came to costs of a new facility- especially if the city of Tampa was involved.

The conflicts between the County and City have become legendary, if almost absurd, over the past couple of years, and once again arose last month over a dispute about funding to pay for a roof on the Tampa Convention Center.

One of the biggest critics of the City on such issues has been Commissioner Ken Hagen (roll tape# 5 o.q.� down the road sir�)

But not true, said Commission Chairman Jim Norman. (roll tape#6 o.q. “before one nickel is spent�)

The Commission then voted on authorizing that a consultant be hired to study the possibilities of a new EOC. Also, to look at putting together a committee to see about raising money for that new center.

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