Fire chiefs urge county to keep pushing for new emergency management facility

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County Emergency Management Office on West Countyhouse Road in Albion opened in 1962 as a bomb shelter. County officials want to build a new building that would be above ground with about twice the space.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 August 2023 at 7:53 am

ALBION – The fire chiefs in Orleans County, as well as the Orleans County Fire Advisory Board, are urging county officials to keep working to replace the emergency management building on West Countyhouse Road.

That building opened in 1962 as a bomb shelter. It is mostly below ground. The site is about 8,000 square feet and lacks handicapped accessibility. County officials are eyeing a new building that would be about twice the space.

“The present facility is woefully outdated and incompatible with the needs of the Office of Emergency Management and the fire service of Orleans County,” wrote Allen Turner in an Aug. 16 letter. He is secretary/treasurer for the Fire Chiefs Association and secretary for the Fire Advisory Board.

“A proper building that is ADA compliant, technologically up-to-date and that allows for large group instruction is both necessary and long overdue,” Turner wrote.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was in Albion last Friday to present a $2 million check towards the project which is an estimated $12 million. The county is also seeking $2.4 million from the state towards a new building.

“We realize the cost is substantial but it is also necessary,” Turner wrote to county legislators. “The building built during the heart of the Cold War period is simply not amenable to the needs of 2023. Please do all in your power to make a new, modern facility a reality.”

The new building is planned to be about 17,000 feet. That includes about 11,000 square feet for offices and classrooms, and another 5,600 square feet for equipment storage.

The county’s backup dispatcher center would be there, as well as training space for firefighters and other first responders. There are three full-time employees that work out of the building as well as part-time fire investigators and fire coordinators. There is also space for ham operators to operate if the communications systems totally fail.

The $12 million preliminary price for the new project includes taking down two radio towers – one is 485 feet tall and the other is 225 feet – and replacing them with one tower that would be about 300 feet high. The old underground building would also be demolished as part of the project.

County officials are working with LaBella Associates to develop more detailed plans and designs for the facility.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announces a $2 million federal grant towards a new emergency management facility for Orleans County. She is shown on Aug. 17 speaking outside the current building.