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A fine facility we hope not to use

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A South Marion Citizen editorial

Rarely is everyone in agreement that an expensive new building built by a government agency should sit idle as much as possible. But that’s the case in our area.

Last Friday, a luncheon took place at the Marion County Emergency Operations Center at the main Sheriff’s Office. It was an information session to let the media, public information officers of various governments in the county and city officials know what would happen in case of an emergency, such as a hurricane.

The session was made more timely because of last week’s devastating tornadoes in Alabama.

Visitors were briefed on how the facility would operate, and then were given a tour. The central core of the building is the center where all the communications would take place. County officials would be divided into groups, with all communications specialists in one area, public information officials in another, etc. City officials would also be grouped into sections. In fact, officials from the Dunnellon Police Department were in attendance Friday, as were public information officers from Ocala. The huge room has computers, TV screens, and telephones. There is a ham radio room in one corner. There is also a separate press room, and the county is about to build a bunk room so people could spend days there without being forced to leave.

There is what amounts to a board room, where officials of various cities and the county commissioners could meet, be briefed and make decisions if needed.

There are two large generators at the edge of the building to keep several days of electricity flowing in the event of power outages.

The building is constructed to withstand 160 mph sustained winds, which would be a pretty powerful hurricane, highly unusual this far inland.

Much of this has been constructed without county money, making use of other funds that were available (yes, we know that federal and state funds are also our money). But it seems well worth it to have an area that could keep our county leaders functioning in case of an emergency.

The building, just a couple of years old, has only been activated once … for the H1N1 flu shot dispersal as we tried to save the people of Marion from this terrible disease.

It’s the only time it’s been needed, and that’s all right. It’s still comforting to know that we have this type of facility available.

And despite the money that’s been spent, we have to hope that this operations center is never needed. That, of course, means that the people of Marion County have escaped another storm season.