by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar Co.) – Bexar Metro 911 Network District hopes to move into its $40 million, 81,500-square-foot facility by October, the executive director said.
The Bexar Metro 911 Emergency Center, under construction at 4700 Quarry Run since January 2015, has been a long time coming. Planning for the regional center began 15 years ago, according to Bexar Metro 911 Executive Director Bill Buchholtz.
However, the 11-acre project did not reach the design phase until 2014. That process took about eight months.
Plans for the structure were approved by the city of San Antonio months ago, Buchholtz said. However, the project will go through another review Tuesday at the San Antonio Zoning Commission due to the helipad component.
“We just recently learned that there’s a technicality for a zoning change. That’s what we’re doing right now,” he said.
At present, 911 calls are handled through 25 different locations within the network’s jurisdiction, which includes first responders in the counties of Bexar, Comal and Guadalupe.
“The primary intent (of the facility) is to provide a new home for the Bexar County Sheriff’s communication operations and an alternate site for San Antonio police and San Antonio fire and EMS operations,” Buchholtz said.
It would also be a contingency site for other communication operations, he added.
The project has stayed on budget, Buchholtz said, noting that it was expected to cost in the neighborhood of $40 million, “give or take a couple of million.”
Contractors have been fortunate in that the weather in 2015 was generally fair. They only had to put up with about two weeks of rain delays, he said.
Whiting-Turner is the general contractor on the project. Page Southerland Page is the architect.
Features of the facility, as reported in a Page blog, include a 13,878-square-foot PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) operations floor with 104 consoles. The site will also include a helipad to allow officials access in the event of emergency situations that could cause roadway closures or congestion.
Functionality on a 24-hour, seven day a week basis was a top priority during planning and this affected the decision to locate the facility in an industrial district southeast of the Loop 1604 and Vance Jackson Road intersection.
“It is kind of out of the way, that was one of the objectives. Perhaps the most important consideration is it offers us the opportunity for redundancy,” Buchholtz said; two CPS Energy substations provide power to the site simultaneously, thus assuring uninterrupted power in the event one substation is knocked off line.
Once in operation, there will be 150 to 174 people working in the new facility at any given moment. But this is a 24-hour operation and enough parking was required to handle shift changes. That is why Page designed 350 parking spaces.
Whiting-Turner is expected to turn the building over to Bexar Metro 911 in June. Buchholz said it would take another 90 to 120 days to install equipment.
“We hope to be operational no later than December 31st, but we are shooting for October 1,” he said.
The project was funded through a telephone surcharge fee charged to phone users within Bexar Metro 911s jurisdiction. The district operates independently of other local government agencies, however, its budget is subject to review by the county commissioners and local municipalities.