Emergency operations center could come to Horry County

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A new emergency operations center could be coming to Horry County.

Council members and emergency management staff talked about the option during day two of the county council's budget retreat on Friday. The center would be for both emergency operations and E-911 communications.

County leaders say this center is essential because there really isn't an emergency facility in Horry County right now. After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, they realized one is needed.

"What we have now is not adequate. It was not built to be an emergency operations center," said emergency operations director Randy Webster.

Webster has done his homework when it comes to bringing a brand new EOC to Horry County.

"We did our special needs assessment, which basically lays out what we think we need, especially as far as how we could function properly moving forward, and we came up with a design of a facility to meet the needs not only of emergency management but an operation center," he said.

The facility would be two stories and 39,000 square feet. It would sit in an empty lot across the street from J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

"It would withstand winds of 170 mph and be very efficient. We could hook generators up and they could help us as we get back on our feet in case of an emergency situation," said Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.

Right now, emergency management is housed at the M.L. Brown building in Conway. During Hurricane Matthew, the space turned out to be too small, according to Lazarus.

"We had people sleeping in the hallways, stepping over each other, and we could just not accommodate the sheer numbers," he said.

The estimated cost for the project is around $25 million, a price county leaders say might not be doable right now.

"We've instructed staff to go ahead and move forward with the planning stage and to come back with more exact cost and find out what the bonding cost will be, then find out what our interest rates are going to be and find out what it will cost to pay those bonds off," said Lazarus.

If the cost is too much for the county to handle right now, Webster said they'll wait to build the center in 2022 or 2023.

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