Torrance County wants to use a building it purchased last year, in Moriarty to create a Public Safety Complex.
Because the property is in Moriarty, the county has to apply to the city’s planning and zoning department for a special use permit, a zoning change; the city council will have the final say.
The space would be used as an office for Torrance County Emergency Management, storage of emergency vehicles, and other uses, including a CERT office, a staging area for media or emergency officials, shelter space, and a limited fire department, according to Torrance County Emergency Manager Matt Propp.
The process started recently with an application to the planning and zoning department which was then sent to city council for review. Because the county had made changes in what it wanted to do with the property, the application had to be resubmitted.
According to Moriarty Mayor Ted Hart, the proposed project is “going to a public hearing.”
Torrance County’s Deputy County Manager Philip Tenorio said the amended application was sent to the city on Feb. 17. He said another change on the application was the name change from “fire station” to “public safety complex.”
Propp said if the application is approved the county would use the space for an emergency management office, an operations center for law enforcement including the Torrance County Sheriff and the State Police, and CERT. He said the county is currently “under-prepared for emergency sheltering” and that half of the building is currently open space that would be used as an emergency shelter.
“There has been a longtime need and it’s been a long time coming,” said Propp, adding that it would expand public safety to the whole county and make partnerships with other agencies during emergencies easier.
The proposed building is between Route 66 and Interstate 40. Propp said the proximity to the freeway would be another benefit of the proposed complex, especially in regard to serving northern Torrance County.
He said the proposed facility would house a mobile command, a fire vehicle that can carry water and possibly an ambulance.
Propp said in the original version of the application, they were thinking of using the shelter space as storage for fire trucks but Mayor and Chief Hart didn’t think it made sense to use the space that way, as it might be create a hazard, and then not be able to serve the purpose of a safe shelter.
Propp said the proposed plan would also qualify the county for applying for federal grants. The county would seek out grants based on need. The range of federal funding for those needs can range from $10,000 to $200,000 for things including equipment, buildings and operating costs.
Torrance County Fire Chief Don Dirks said he thought the proposed public safety complex would be helpful for “mass casualty incidents” and inclement weather because of how close to I-40 it is, and because it would provide the area with another shelter space. Moriarty has long used the Moriarty Civic Center as a place to house people during snowstorms that shut down the freeway.
Dirks also thinks having a point of contact for emergency management and being able to create a mobile command center for different emergency outlets is good. He said it is a big project and is aimed at helping to protect the county’s residents, and that he hopes it gets to be “up and running quickly.”
Moriarty Fire Department Fire Chief Todd Hart said to use the proposed space as a shelter would be “awesome” but disagrees with using it as a fire station.
Because of the building’s proximity to both city fire departments, Chief Hart said didn’t think it would be money well spent as a fire station, and said District 5 already has a space off of Highway 41 very close to the Pilot and I-40.