Loudon County gets $1.5M for new 911 center By HUGH G. WILLETT, knoxnews.com
April 12, 2007

The Loudon County Emergency Communications District plans to build a new 911 call center with help from $1.5 million given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office.

"This is probably the biggest step forward on the way to modernizing our emergency services in the county," Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp said Wednesday at a ceremony announcing the award.

The center now is housed in an older modular home in a high-traffic area adjacent to the courthouse in Lenoir City. The current building is too small, not secure and was never designed to house sensitive electronic equipment, officials said.

The federal investment is part of USDA Rural Development's First Responder Initiative to help rural communities improve first responder services after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Combined with more than $140,000 in local funding and a deal with the Loudon Utilities Board to provide land, the federal funding should be enough to make the new call center a reality, said Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider, who also served as chairman of the 911 Board that organized the construction effort.

The county of 39,000 residents is growing rapidly and badly needs the new facility, Guider said. "Now that we have the money we can start the architectural phase of the plan," he said.

Construction is expected to take about a year, he said.

Preliminary plans call for a 3,000-square-foot secure facility of reinforced masonry and brick on three acres leased from the Loudon Utilities Board. The road leading to the new facility will be renamed John Paris Drive in honor of the communication district's first chairman.

"This is another sign of progress in Loudon County," said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., who was on hand to present the check along with Mary Tackett, state director for the USDA office.

Lenoir City Police Chief Donald White, a member of the planning committee, said the new facility will include space for all necessary equipment as well as room for training dispatchers and other personnel.

The new facility also will be secure and environmentally stable, said Loudon Police Chief James "Bear" Webb. The electronic communications equipment used by the dispatchers and first responders generates a lot of heat and is sensitive to changes in climate, he said.