County legislature OKs funding for sheriff’s new 9-1-1 center

 — Enterprise file photo

First opened in 1948, Clarksville Elementary School was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

NEW SCOTLAND — The Albany County Legislature this week unanimously approved $8.33 million in construction contracts to turn the former Clarksville Elementary School into the county’s Emergency 9-1-1 Communications Center.

Sheriff Craig Apple told members of the legislature’s public works committee on Aug. 24 that, barring the full legislature voting down the project, “we anticipate putting a shovel in the ground in about 25 [to] 30 days.” 

A year ago, citing coronavirus concerns and major savings to taxpayers, Apple requested and received permission to move the 9-1-1 center from its planned location at the Shaker Place Nursing Home in Colonie to the sheriff’s public-safety building in Clarksville. 

The new communications center comes with a $9.2 million price tag, which likely includes soft costs such as architectural, engineering, and legal fees, as well as permits, taxes, and insurance.

The project came in $800,000 above “where we thought but we’re still under” the original allotment, the sheriff told committee members on Aug. 24, attributing the overages to the high cost of materials throughout the pandemic.

Apple said that another unplanned cost was $200,000 to upgrade the former school’s septic system — the initial plans called for a tie-in to the existing and antiquated system, which proved unfeasible due to the eventual increase in staff that would be using the system.

Apple reiterated that his office remains under its original allotted amount for the project, adding there’s a 7-percent contingency built into the budget.  “I have no anticipation whatsoever of coming back here and begging for more money,” Apple told the committee. “I think we can still do this efficiently and under budget.”

Albany County’s current 3,000-square-foot 9-1-1 center at 449 New Salem Road is in a complex used by the county’s department of public works just down the road from the Voorheesville middle and high school campus. The 9-1-1 center was built in 1994, said Apple during an August 2020 meeting of the county legislature’s audit-and-finance committee.  

“At that point, we answered for one law-enforcement agency, five EMS agencies, and six fire departments,” he told committee members last year, and the facility was supposed to accommodate just three dispatchers, two clerks, and a station commander.

The building had received “no renovations whatsoever” in the quarter-century since, Apple said at the time, but now it houses 30 dispatchers, three information-technology staffers, two clerks, one sheriff’s deputy, and a station commander.

The county’s current 9-1-1 service center “was built to handle 10,000 calls a year — we now handle 12,000 calls per month,” Apple said in August of last year; the center now dispatches for six law-enforcement agencies, six emergency medical service agencies, and 15 fire departments.

The upgraded facility will house 17 dispatchers at any given time and 40 call-takers, Apple told the legislators.

The 9-1-1 facility was originally slated to be built inside Albany County’s recently-rehabilitated nursing home in Colonie, but Apple told the committee that the decision to move to Clarksville was a cost-saving measure.

Apple said that building the 9-1-1 center at the nursing home would have cost $13.5 million to $15 or $16 million. He attributed the cost difference to having to install specialty materials to match the new nursing home. 

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