Tucked behind a quiet neighborhood off Jonquil Avenue in Landover is a former schoolhouse that once served as Prince George’s County’s 911 dispatch center.
But by this time next year, a state-of-the-art public safety complex will stand in its place, a facility that county leaders hope will enhance emergency communications and transform the neighborhood into a walkable community.
During the ground-breaking July 16, County executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said the new 46,000-square-foot facility will be critical to the safety of county residents.
“Not everyday is a sunny, bright day. Great days can be interrupted by major emergencies,” Baker said. “This facility will help us save lives and build on our success of supporting residents in emergencies.”
The public safety complex will house the county’s Office of Homeland Security’s emergency management office, an emergency operations center, a 911 backup facility and the Office of Human Resource Management’s public safety investigations division. The complex would allow all the agencies, which are now in separate locations, to be together in one facility, officials said.
The $30 million project is funded through the county’s Capital Improvement Program and about $6 million in state and federal grants. The schoolhouse will be razed, and the new complex will open in the late winter or early spring of 2015, Baker said.
Charlynn Flaherty, the assistant director for public safety communications, runs the county’s 911 dispatch center in Bowie, which opened in 2011. She said they receive 1.3 million calls every year, so having a backup center in Landover will ensure there is always someone by a phone to assist residents in emergencies, Flaherty said.
“It’s a lifesaver, literally,” Flaherty said. “If there is no one in the primary center and no one to answer the phones, someone will die.”
Ronald Gill, the director of the Office of Emergency Management, said the new complex will help mobilize staff members more efficiently during an emergency situation, when it’s all about “how quickly you can get ahead of the game instead of playing catch-up.”
County Councilwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale said the complex would also include a community room for residents living near the facility and a walking path to the Morgan Boulevard Metro station.
“The residents here deserve to have a number of redevelopment opportunities,” Harrison said.
County Council Chairman Mel Franklin (D-Dist. 9) of Upper Marlboro said constructing the complex in Landover shows the county’s sustained commitment to the community.
“We are building this in the area to reinvest in our established neighborhoods,” Franklin said.