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Piece by piece, Brevard County has been gradually accumulating money to build a new Emergency Operations Center, with site work now progressing at a location in Rockledge.

Through a combination of federal and state grants, the design of a 43,000-square-foot building has been finalized, permits have been acquired, and site work is underway on the property next to the existing Emergency Operations Center, which is aging and too small for current needs.

Now, the county is seeking $12.8 million in Community Development Block Grant/Disaster Recovery funding to move forward with construction.

Brevard County Emergency Management Director Kimberly Prosser said replacing the current Emergency Operations Center is long overdue.

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"Our Emergency Operations Center is over 50 years old, and undersized, with a variety of facility issues — some caused by age, some by size, and some because today's technology was not contemplated in the 1960s," Prosser said in a recent report to county commissioners.

The Brevard County EOC is the most frequently activated in the state and one of the most frequently activated in the nation, largely because of the number of space launches and launch attempts.

Additionally, Brevard has had 29 federally declared disasters in the past 50 years, ranking it 78th in the nation, or in the top 3% of U.S. counties. These include Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

"While Brevard has the storm surge, flooding and wildfire threats that most counties in Florida face, it is also home to the second-busiest cruise terminal in the world, multiple military facilities and a robust defense-industrial base," Prosser said in her report. "Brevard is also susceptible to a nuclear power plant incident, as parts of the county are within the 50-mile ingestion pathway for the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant."

More: Brevard’s Emergency Operations Center is a disaster in waiting | Opinion

More: Hurricane Dorian's cost to Brevard County estimated at more than $13.8 million

Prosser said, as the county pursues the Community Development Block Grant, site work will continue on the property at 1751 Huntington Lane, which is owned by Brevard Public Schools and leased to Brevard County for 99 years at $1 a year, as approved by the County Commission in December 2016.

These are among the previous grants the county received for the new Emergency Operations Center:

• $1.5 million in state funding for EOC architectural and engineering design that was approved by the Florida Legislature two years ago. That phase of the project is complete.

• $1 million in state funding for EOC construction that was approved by the Florida Legislature last year.

• A $500,000 Defense Infrastructure Grant that was awarded for the EOC.

• The County Commission in November approved accepting a $718,850 Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant for the hardening component of the construction of the new EOC, enabling it to withstand 220 mph winds. Commissioners previously approved a hazard mitigation grant of $114,150 for the hardening component of the design of the facility. 

The County Commission also has approved directing revenue earned from cellular tower licenses toward the EOC project.

Prosser said the $12.8 million Community Development Block Grant would cover the cost to build and outfit the new EOC with furniture, fixtures and equipment. 

"We do need to have about $6 million in place to start construction, which would pay for the shell of the building — floor, walls, roof — as we wouldn’t want to build just part of the building and subject it to the elements," Prosser said.

Brevard County Communications Director Don Walker said that, through federal and state funding, work that has taken place so far includes:

• Clearing the land of trees and plants.

• Disposing of muck.

• Installing three storm drain structures.

• Making water and sewer connections.

• Replacing the open drainage ditch on Huntington Lane with 600 feet of reinforced concrete pipe.

• Relocating power poles and lines.

• Installing temporary fence to secure the site.

• Delivering and compacting 57,000 tons of fill dirt.

• Beginning construction of a gravity wall.

Florida Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, and Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island, are sponsoring an appropriations request for $1 million for the 2020-21 state budget to fund the completion of site work for the EOC.

Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.

Contact Berman at 321-242-3649

or dberman@floridatoday.com.

Twitter: @bydaveberman

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