Questions over costly extras for $13 million Fargo-Moorhead dispatch center

The Red River Regional Dispatch Center serves as the nerve center for emergency police, fire and medical response in Moorhead and the greater Fargo area. Plans in the works call for the current center to be replaced with a bigger, state-of-the-art $13 million center in Fargo which Forum News says would be capable of withstanding natural disasters and other potential threats.

The new facility will replace the current Red River Regional Dispatch Center that serves Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Cass County and Clay County, which according to local officials has become crowded and faces safety concerns.

In addition to capacity issues, the current facility is not “hardened” to handle natural disasters, according to Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner.

A new facility will be designed to operate off-the-grid for at least 72 hours should anything happen that affects their operating systems, including HVAC, water and power, according to consultants.

But when the plans were presented to the Cass County Board of Commissioners in November, one of the board members sent out a sort of 9-1-1 alert of his own over the tab for some of the bells and whistles in the proposal.

Commissioner Chad Peterson voiced concern over high fees and “needless” expenditures from project consultants Architects Design Group (ADG) and Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH), which presented the renderings on Monday.

The project will cost approximately $13 million for development, which includes construction, site development and other soft costs that help get the facility move-in-ready, according to the design report.

“The cost is inflating here rather remarkably,” Peterson said “It sure seems like you have a lot of redundancy in this plan that would easily be eliminated,” noting sleeping rooms for staff as an example.

Peterson questioned more than the layout and other features, referring to a secured parking site as a “needless expenditure.” He also pressed for answers on the fee structure for the design firm in charge of the 15,000 square foot development, fees expected to hit more than $865,000.

Professional services such as survey, environmental, Geotech, technology, security and communications from the consultant is all included in the budget line for the design services, totaling $866,000.

“If it’s a 10.5% fee then we need to find another designer,” Peterson said.

Brian Bergstrom, project manager with SEH, said the fee was by no means a “take it or leave it number,” adding that SEH is open to discussing that cost with the county to explain what that fee gets them and to work to “get to the right fee that works for everybody.”

The new Red River facility continues to move forward. As it does, taxpayers on both sides of the river can take some comfort in knowing at least one elected officials plans to be keeping a close eye on it.