Red River Regional Dispatch Center secures north Fargo site for new building
While the design of the building is preliminary, the new home of the metro area's 911 call center is set.
FARGO — A committee planning for a new Red River Regional Dispatch Center has decided on a north Fargo site where it will be built, but the final design is under development before shovels hit the ground.
On Thursday, May 11, the Red River Regional Dispatch Center Authority Board, which is comprised of representatives from Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Cass County and Clay County, voted 5-3 to approve building the new center at what has been dubbed the Public Safety Site.
The site gets its moniker from being close to a Fargo Public Safety building near 15th Avenue North and 45th Street West in Fargo, although the exact address was not available Thursday. The committee also considered a location near the Cass County Jail as a potential building site.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney motioned for the Public Safety Site to be chosen, a vote that was supported by Fargo City Commissioner Denise Kolpack, Moorhead City Council Member Ryan Nelson and Clay County Commissioners Kevin Campbell and David Ebinger.
Board Chair and Cass County Commissioner Chad Peterson, Cass County Commissioner Mary Scherling and West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis voted against the site.
The board also received an update from plan architects Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. Architects Design Group and Short Elliott Hendrickson unveiled designs for the facility at a November 2022 Cass County Commission meeting.
Red River Valley Dispatch Center Director Mary Phillippi said the design is what is called a "bubble diagram," or one that is still preliminary.
When the design was unveiled last fall, Peterson was critical of the $13 million price tag and the necessity of some spaces.
On Thursday, Short Elliott Hendrickson presented a revised plan that cut out a meeting room of about 400 square feet and dropped the cost by about $224,000. The total cost includes construction, site development and other soft costs that help get the facility move-in-ready, according to the design report.
"They are moving on to the next phase, which will give more specifics, and they will have a better number, as well," Phillippi said. "It's very high-level right now."
Mahoney said that as Fargo planned for its new City Hall, the project initially had a $30 million price tag that was eventually cut to more than $22 million. He said this project will likely see cost reductions as designs are finalized.
Peterson pointed to rooms designated as "sleeping rooms" for staff and kitchens as possibly not necessary in the new design and asked that architects consider returning with alternate options for bidding as they continue the design.
"This isn't a complex procedure for our designers to take into account," Peterson said. "This facility needs to be constructed. We've been very lucky we've had a facility downtown and, from my knowledge, we've had zero incidents."
Phillippi cautioned the board to keep dispatch staff in mind, as well as the mental health impacts of what can be a very difficult job.
"We need to be cautious about making it too small for our employees or taking away some of the things they need," she said.
Dispatch staff emphasized the importance of having kitchen space, she said, because they generally cannot leave the facility during a shift for meals, and "de-stress" rooms, which staff could go to and be left alone for a moment to reflect or de-stress after a difficult call.
"I really think we need adequate facilities as far as their mental health; it is an issue in dispatch," Phillippi said.
The new facility will replace the current Red River Regional Dispatch Center in downtown Fargo that serves Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Cass County and Clay County, which according to local officials has become crowded and faces safety concerns.
Phillippi said Thursday's location decision is a "big step forward" with the project expected to go out to bid midsummer.
Forum reporter Melissa Van Der Stad contributed to this report.