Stray Signals

Los Altos council moves forward with new emergency facility plans – Los Altos Town Crier

The Los Altos City Council last week finalized a design option for a new emergency operations center facility, intended to serve as a communications hub during major disasters. The action came as ham radio operators cited major cost overruns and project delays.

The council at its July 13 meeting signed off on Option C for the new EOC, one of two options the council initially approved in April. A second choice, Option D, was dependent on a federal grant that didn’t materialize. The EOC would house ham radio operators and other emergency personnel.

The council agreed to allocate an additional $132,000 for Jeff Katz Architecture for design work beyond the scope of initial contract work, costing $290,000, which was approved in 2018. City staff reported that $88,000 already paid to the architect from the original contract will carry over to the current $220,000 cost of Option C.

Replacing the current EOC in the city’s Municipal Services Center, the 1,763-square-foot building would be located behind the police station. Option C comes with a more than $2.6 million budget for construction – projected to begin in mid-2022.

Despite the lack of federal grant money, the council still had a choice to go with Option D designs, which allowed for a larger facility at greater cost, but that option would have depended on another source of grant funding. Option D would have created additional space at the EOC for the police department’s information technology unit. The IT division currently operates out of a trailer in the back of the station where the new EOC is going to go.

“No one has answered that question,” said Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea, when asked where the IT department would relocate.

Councilmember Jonathan Weinberg, after meeting with Galea and interim City Manager Brad Kilger, initially proposed going with Options C and D.

“While I don’t like the numbers we’re seeing, the numbers are justified, and moving forward is the way to go. We don’t want to be penny-wise, pound-foolish,” Weinberg said, noting that taking care of IT now means less funding needed later, when the city eventually appeals to the community to build a new police station.

Pointing to issues of flooding in the police station basement, where 911 communications equipment is located, Weinberg cautioned that equipment failure “will put citizens in harm’s way.”

“At some point soon, the IT division is going to need a new facility and we need to get the

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