Apr 28, 2011 6:45 PM by David Ortiviz

Pueblo Sheriff says new emergency center is "critical"

As the army prepares to destroy dangerous stockpiles of weapons at the Pueblo Chemical Depot, Pueblo County hopes to tap into more funding from the federal government. Over the past twenty years the county has received $42 million from the federal government in emergency preparedness funding.

More than 8% of the nation's chemical weapons is stored in Pueblo. As the obsolete mustard agent is set to be destroyed the feds say Pueblo County needs a bigger command center in case something goes wrong. "One of the deficiencies was the emergency operations center," said Kirk Taylor, Pueblo County Sheriff.

The Emergency Operations Center is the nerve center in a disaster, with multi agencies working side by side. However, county leaders say the current center in the judicial complex is too small. "As you can see this is a pretty cramped space in a 44 year old building in the basement," said Sheriff Taylor.

So the search began for a new home. On Tuesday county commissioners voted 2-1 to use land at 1001 N. Santa Fe to build the new emergency operations center. A county conference room will be knocked down to make way for a new $30,000 sq. ft. building.

Sheriff Taylor calls the project vital with a chemical depot in our backyard. "I think it's extremely important and I would say critical that we have appropriate space to respond to a potential emergency," said Sheriff Taylor.

Lisa Shorter a spokesperson for Pueblo County's Emergency Services Bureau says so far the project has been funded by the Department of Defense. To date $1.5 million has been given to the county for planning. The county's optimistic the remaining costs, up to $12 million, will also come from the federal government. "We're very confident that that's going to move forward," said Sheriff Taylor.

The county says the next step is to finalize the design plans.



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