St. Charles County officials are moving ahead with a multimillion-dollar emergency communications and operations center after hiring a construction firm to build the 30,000-square-foot building in O’Fallon.
The County Council voted on Jan. 30 to award the project to Brinkmann Constructors of St. Louis for $19.59 million, the lowest bid received. The center will be built on 10 acres of land behind the county police department’s headquarters off T.R. Hughes Drive in O’Fallon.
Work to complete schematic designs will begin immediately, with site demolition and grading to start in April. County officials anticipate the facility will be operational in late 2018.
The new facility will house the day-to-day operations of the police department, the division of emergency management, a data center for county information technology operations and the countywide emergency radio communications system.
County officials said the center is needed for many reasons. The county is running out of room for data and record storage, training and meetings as the county continues to grow, Joann Leykam, the county’s director of administration, said last year during a discussion with the council about the center. “We’re simply out of space,” she said.
Currently, the county’s data center and some emergency communications offices are located in St. Charles. However, the emergency communications department also operates dispatching services and 911 operations from an office building in Wentzville. The county’s division of emergency management is located in the basement of the county’s justice center in St. Charles. The project also includes an addition to the adjacent county police department office to provide more evidence storage.
The center would be funded largely with revenue from a ¼-cent sales tax for capital improvements designated as a “capital fund” in the county budget. County voters renewed the capital fund sales tax in 2009, increasing it from a 1/5-cent. The county had set aside sales tax revenue in the county budget to fund the center.
To build it, the county may borrow a page from St. Louis County, which recently built its own emergency response center by using a different construction method. Traditionally, a public body bids out design services then seeks new bids on a construction project. That method often means change orders and additional expenses. Leykam said St. Louis County saved money and construction time by using a “design-build” approach.
Design-build places sole responsibility for design and construction on a single successful bidder. County Executive Steve Ehlmann said last year that the county had a great experience when Missouri Department of Transportation took a similar approach to building the third and final phase of Route 364. The council passed an ordinance in 2015, establishing the design-build procedure and, in March 2016, authorized utilization of the process for the facility. All other county buildings have been constructed with the design-bid-build process.
According to a county news release, after issuing a Request for Qualifications [RFQ] in May 2016, the county hired Landmark Contract Management of St. Louis to serve as owner’s consultant. Landmark worked with numerous county department directors and administrators during the six-month process from RFQ to builder selection.
The county and Landmark chose Brinkmann from a field of nine companies that responded to the RFQ posted in August 2016. The county narrowed the field to three contenders, then conducted an eight-week process of interviews and proposal reviews. Numerous internal work sessions to discuss each team’s proposal were held with several county department directors and stakeholders before an evaluation team of five key county personnel scored the companies and their proposals.
“We are pleased to be working with Brinkmann Constructors,” Ehlmann stated in the news release. “Our team worked diligently to find the right fit for this project. The facility must be secure and resilient for public safety, emergency preparedness and critical response. I am confident our county team and Brinkmann Contractors will produce a 21st century building that provides the technology and space needed to better serve the 370,000 residents of St. Charles County.
“As our population continues to grow, demand for these services is rising,” Ehlmann continued. “Now is the time to consolidate these operations into one, mission-critical facility that will sustain 365/24/7 operations during any type of emergency event or extreme condition.”