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Rock Building considered for new county EOC

A group of citizens gathered last week in the interest of taking care of Pike County citizens and in saving a "piece of the rock."

The meeting was held at the Emergency Management office and was attended by individuals who are charged with taking care of the county's residents in an emergency situation.

Larry Davis, emergency management administrator, said the purpose of the meeting was to explore possibility of an emergency operations center (EOC) for the county.

"We need a place where the emergency agencies can come together to take care of the citizens of Pike County during an emergency situation - during both the response period and the recovery period."

"We need a public place to house the EOC and other agencies that could benefit from a such a facility," Davis said.

"Such a facility" is, in the consensus of the group, the Pike County Activities Building, better known as "the Rock Building."

"The Rock Building is part of Pike County history," Davis said. "The rocks to build the facility where hauled off farms all over the county. It deserves a place in history."

Davis said there is a lot of sentiment connected with the Rock Building and he believes the public will be supportive of the effort to preserve it.

The building's historical significance makes it a desirable location for the EOC, but there is another factor that weighs heavily in favor of the the Rock Building as the EOC for the county.

The county owns the building.

County Commissioner Larry Meeks agreed with Davis that "the building is worth saving." However, he said doing so will have to be a community effort.

Jane Thrash, Pike County Red Cross director, said community support should not be a problem.

When the citizens of the country become aware of the importance of an EOC, Thrash said there is no doubt in her mind that the community will be behind the efforts to make a "command center" a reality.

"The EOC would be an off-site command center for elected officials, department and service heads,emergency management, the Red Cross and other emergency agencies in the event of a disaster or any other emergency situation," Thrash said. "We all know how important it would be to operate from a central location. And, that's exactly what the EOC would be."

Max Davis, general manager of South Alabama Electric Cooperative, said the co-op has responded to three natural disasters in recent years - two floods in Elba and Hurricane Opal.

All agencies involved came together in response to the emergency situations, Davis said, adding that a place of central command center would be beneficial to all responding agencies in times like that."

In addition to serving as the EOC for the county, the building could be a multiple use facility on a daily basis.

Suggestions for the facility included a place to house the Pike County Commission and the Veterans Affairs offices. Both area located in the basement of the county courthouse.

County Administrator Harry Sanders said the desire to make the commission office more accessible than the basement of the courthouse had been expressed by the commissioners.

"The commissioners want to be able to provide the most services possible for the people of Pike County," Sanders said. "We all know that funds are limited, so on the county level, we must be pro-active in our thinking rather that reactive."

Sanders said the Rock Building could provide additional space for the driver's license division, the VA and training and meeting rooms.

Probate Judge Bill Stone agreed that the additional space could be utilized by the county.

"We do have the voting equipment stored there," Stone said. "We would continue to need a small amount of space to do the physical work to get the machines ready for elections."

Other uses for the building would be housing for emergency management, the Red Cross, the YMCA and clubs and organizations.

Funding for the project was also discussed with grants, public contributions and EMA funds heading the list.

Lawrence Bowden said getting priorities in order will be necessary if any federal monies are involved.

"The effort needs to focused," he said. Davis said with an increased emphasis on homeland security, he believes that some funding could be available through the EMA.

"Probably any money that would be available would require a match," he said. "And, the building would have to meet certain specifications, but we should be able to get some financial assistance through EMA."

All who attended the meeting agreed that the project is one worth pursuing. However, because the EOC will be a facility that serves all of Pike County, input is need from all governing bodies.

"We need to get these people together and work this together," Davis said.