WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Washington County is working on getting a new emergency operations center.

The emergency management department is currently located in the Fire Training Academy in Lincoln. The department has been located there for the past couple of years. Emergency Manager John Luther said an emergency operations center acts as a place to coordinate disaster response.

“It’s kind of the central heartbeat, if you will, of all things related to disasters leading up to, during and even after,” Luther said.

County Judge Patrick Deakins said the center needs to be a place that can withstand natural disasters, which is something the current location isn’t set up for.

“The facility they’re in right now was never designed to be an emergency operations center,” Deakins said.

Deakins is now looking to use American Rescue Plan funds to help with the construction of a new center.

“We can’t think of any better way to respond to that pandemic and make sure we’re doing all we can to fulfill our obligation as a county and as emergency responders,” Deakins said.

The county is currently in the site selection process, trying to determine the best place for the center. Deakins and Luther said the center needs to be centrally located.

Deakins said it’s hard to say what the exact cost of the new center will be right now. Once the county picks a site, Deakins will bring the proposal to the quorum court.

“For an allocation of funds to start the engineering and architectural work. When that design is complete, we’ll have a lot more focus of what the building might look like,” Deakins said.