Costs rising for Sacramento County 911 center renovation

04/01/2014 12:00 AM

03/31/2014 8:11 PM

The price tag has grown on a multimillion-dollar project to move Sacramento County’s emergency communications center from downtown Sacramento to Elk Grove.

New revisions to the substation’s power supply system and server room, as well as to masonry and duct work, have added more than $260,000 and a month’s delay to the center’s construction, according to a March report to the county Board of Supervisors. That follows earlier cost increases totaling more than $147,000.

Sacramento County is moving its 911 operations to Elk Grove because its location at Seventh and G streets has a phone system “well past projected end of life, and at significant risk of catastrophic failure,” according to a 2012 strategic plan. The phone system’s age also has prevented the Sheriff’s Department from converting to Next Generation 911, the federal initiative to handle emergency communications via text, data, images and video from smartphones.

A new system, the strategic plan added, would also allow dispatchers to answer wireless 911 calls directly instead of waiting for the mobile phone messages to be handed off by California Highway Patrol dispatchers.

Crews have been at work on the county’s 911 Communications Center Relocation Project since June, renovating the Sheriff’s South Station house at Bond and Waterman roads in east Elk Grove.

The construction changes arose largely from what Jeff Gasaway, deputy director of Sacramento County Department of General Services, called “unforeseen conditions.” Outdated, discontinued power supply devices had to be replaced with newer, updated equipment; architectural issues arose and ductwork had to be modified, officials said.

The changes have increased the renovation price tag from its original $4.5 million to $4.9 million. All told, the project will cost $18.2 million when equipment, staff and other expenses are included.

The project is funded by a variety of sources, community-oriented policing grants and state 911 equipment money among them. The Department of General Services anticipated construction cost increases in its 2013-14 budget.

“No one wants to see delays – no question they’ve occurred – but even with the best-laid plans, you run into some unanticipated (issues),” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, who represents Elk Grove.

Construction is now expected to be completed in September, Gasaway said. Workers will install and test equipment through the fall, and Sheriff’s Department staff will move into the revamped facility in December or January, he said.

Renovation by Modesto-based Simile Construction Service is nearly half complete, county officials say, with crews and trucks at work on the site.

The South Station was built before Elk Grove’s 2000 incorporation, a substation then seen as a “good location central to the movement of law enforcement at that time,” Nottoli said, as a growing population in the south county demanded more law enforcement attention.

After Elk Grove incorporated and established its own police force, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department maintained its presence on Bond Road.

Plans for an expanded communications center had been in the works for years, Nottoli said.

The Sheriff Department’s Communications Bureau is a busy place. All emergency landline calls are routed to the Communications Bureau, say sheriff’s officials.

Dispatchers answer about 900,000 emergency and non-emergency telephone calls a year, say sheriff’s officials. Of those calls, approximately 280,000 are 911 telephone calls.

At various times, county officials considered merging 911 services with the city of Sacramento or opening multiple call centers across the county.

By 2012, a new Public Safety Answering Point – as the 911 center is called in the department’s nomenclature – had become a stated priority in Sheriff Scott Jones’ strategic plan.

Today, Nottoli says the renovated center will “reuse a building that will be there for a long time.”

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