Sussex Public Safety Building nearing bid phase

$12M facility at airport will house EMS, operations center

Renovation of the existing Sussex County Emergency Operations Center is part of an estimated $12 million project that will put the EOC and the Sussex County Emergency Medical Services paramedic department under one roof at the county-owned Delaware Coastal Airport.
Renovation of the existing Sussex County Emergency Operations Center is part of an estimated $12 million project that will put the EOC and the Sussex County Emergency Medical Services paramedic department under one roof at the county-owned Delaware Coastal Airport.
Delaware State News file photo/Glenn Rolfe
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GEORGETOWN — Spring has sprung.

So has Sussex County officials’ hope that the bid season is near for a multimillion-dollar construction project that will put the Emergency Medical Services paramedic department and Emergency Operations Center under one roof at the county-owned Delaware Coastal Airport.

On March 23, prior to its two-week spring break, County Council received a progress report from EMS Director Robbie Murray, County Engineer Hans Medlarz and Morgan Helfrich, an architect with George Miles & Buhr LLC.

Last October, Mr. Medlarz and Mr. Murray unveiled preliminary design plans for the EOC expansion and new paramedic department base. The project, estimated in the $12 million ballpark, is coined the Sussex County Public Safety Building.

“The floor plan really hasn’t changed. There have been a few efficiency updates with us, recognizing that maybe we didn’t need two doors in the kitchen area, maybe we didn’t need this access door,” said Mr. Murray last week. “But the percentages in terms of training, administration, eating area — all of that has remained steady since the last time we had the opportunity to meet.”

The project includes a new 20,000-square-foot EMS base attached to the existing EOC. Several sections of the current EOC building — kitchen, lobby offices and public-access hallway — will undergo renovation.

It is designed, in part, to expedite the county’s exodus from the aging West Administrative Complex, just south of the U.S. 113/Del. 9 intersection.

“The plan is to move our logistics current warehouse from (there), out to this site, so that we are all under one roof,” said Mr. Murray.

Gauged as a milestone for Sussex County, the project will be supported by realty transfer tax monies.

“This work was approved in this year’s budget, and hopefully, with a little bit of luck, we will be able to start construction in next year’s budget,” said Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson. “This has been a long time coming — an idea that we have been discussing for several years.”

As of March 23, the project was very close to entering the bidding stage, Mr. Medlarz said.

“How soon do you see this project being able to be in the street for bids?” said County Council President Michael Vincent.

“Within two months. It really depends on the permitting,” said Mr. Medlarz. “I believe we should have all the permits in hand within four to six weeks.”

There is confidence in the estimate of the total cost, despite uncertain times, he added.

“Right now, as we stand here today, we believe we can bring this project to you in the $12 million range or less,” he said.

County Councilman John Rieley asked what could slow the project.

“There is supply-chain problems associated with the pandemic,” said Mr. Medlarz, noting the escalating price and availability of materials like lumber and steel.

The design favors a similar, unified scheme.

“The overall matchup of the design is to try to match the design of the existing EOC, so that (the EMS addition) does not look like an addition,” said Ms. Helfrich.

Training areas are high priority for the new EMS base.

“We do believe, as others, that that is a key role in why we are able to have the success that we are. When you look at us across the board nationally, we feel that we are right there with the upper echelon, with the top tier. We believe the training and education that we provide to our staff is a key part of that,” said Mr. Murray. “So we thought it was fitting that that occupy the biggest percentage of our new EMS headquarters.”

Design plans include a classroom with seating for 52, four simulation rooms, three smaller rooms for breakout sessions and a large simulation room to hold the EMS department’s “Simbulance,” an apparatus that provides a more realistic simulated experience, including moving a patient to an ambulance.

Sussex County’s EMS is nationally and internationally recognized.

In December 2019, it received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services, one of the highest marks a prehospital EMS service can receive through evaluation of its operations and its level of patient service.

In past international JEMS (Journal of Emergency Medical Services) Games, Sussex County EMS has captured numerous gold, silver and other medals while competing with departments from the U.S. and around the world.

Cost breakdown

The facility’s proposed cost breakdown includes architectural/engineering ($780,000); site work with 10% contingency ($1,320,000); construction with 10% contingency ($9,350,000); a new EOC cooling tower ($250,000); and 2.5% inflation ($300,000), for a total of $12 million.

“We are confident that we are on schedule,” said Mr. Lawson. “As we entertain our (fiscal year 2022) budget items, you will see this in the FY 22 for construction of the new complex.”