It will be a long time, possibly years, before Monroe County has a new emergency operations building in Marathon, but plans are in motion. 

Hurricane Irma taught county officials much about the logistics and need for emergency operations to be housed in one building, and that building will potentially go on the grounds of the Florida Keys Marathon International Airport property. Exactly where has yet to be determined. 

“Right now, we’re calling it a public safety complex, kind of like the new models seen in Charlotte and Leon counties,” said Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi. “We want all the first responders in one building and that’s what we intend.” 

Emergency operations director Marty Senterfitt said the building will be about 30,000 square feet, and built about 20 feet above ground level. 

“It’ll truly be built to withstand a major storm surge and will also be built to some of the highest wind speed standards. All of the systems in the building – water, sewer and generators – have redundant systems and it’ll be able to operate on its own for seven days,” he said. 

The cost estimate is around $22 million, and no renderings have been drawn yet, Senterfitt said. 

“There were some old sketches, but after Irma we realized they weren’t really adequate, so we’re going to redesign the whole floor plan,” he said.  

“It’ll have a good wow factor, the way it should be for the most vulnerable county in the state.” -Roman Gastesi, county administrator

Construction will be fully funded with federal and state grants, according to Gastesi. 

“No local dollars,” Gastesi said. “It’ll have a good wow factor, the way it should be for the most vulnerable county in the state.”

County building, zoning and planning departments will remain housed at the Marathon Government Center, and the Board of County Commissioners will continue to meet in the chambers there. 

“A lot of government agencies use that room, and one of the challenges we’re facing is finding a place for training,” Senterfitt said, referring to the community emergency response teams (CERT) that have been training since earlier this year. “A new EOC will give us a location that can be dedicated to disaster planning and training.”

So far, more than 300 Keys residents have been CERT trained, which involves training in basic first aid and survival skills and grants residents a “golden ticket” for re-entry after a hurricane. 

Upcoming two-day trainings are in Key Largo from Oct. 6-7, and Marathon from Oct. 13-14. For more information, call (305)-289-6018.

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