Dothan Utilities officials have touted the need for an expanded emergency operations center for a few years, and now the project has been funded.

During a budget hearing with the Dothan City Commission Tuesday, city Finance Director Lisa Reeder said the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority decided to reimburse the city for construction of the operations center. The facility, which DU Director Billy Mayes said could be constructed later this year, is projected to cost about $1.7 million.

AMEA, an 11-member electric cooperative, provides Dothan Utilities with most of the power it sells. Since AMEA is a nonprofit entity, its board allocates any excess revenues to fund projects its members hope to address, said District 3 Commissioner and AMEA board member Albert Kirkland.

Dothan represents 30 percent of the interest in AMEA, Kirkland added.

Mayes said officials offer two major reasons for constructing the new center: size and safety. The current call center and other related operations lack in office space, especially in emergencies like hurricanes.

“Our facility is way too small to handle the emergencies,” Mayes said. “Everybody’s on top of everybody.”

Additionally the utilities complex is not “storm-rated,” meaning inclement weather can damage the facility and equipment needed to operate the electrical grid. Mayes said the city plans to build a “hardened” facility that provides a better chance of withstanding storms.

Officials plan to use the new center for daily operations and not just in emergency situations, Mayes noted.

Engineers have designed the building, and the city could bid the project soon. Mayes estimated construction on the project could begin in the next two months.

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