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Eyes on the armory

Staff Writer | August 12, 2020 1:07 AM

Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management seeks permanent home

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management is on the hunt for a designated emergency operations center, and one possible plum has caught its eye.

It’s the vacant National Guard Armory at Coeur d’Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field.

Kootenai County owns the 9,400-square-foot armory. The 2.4 acres it sits on is the property of the airport. To occupy the building, KCSO would have to find a way to purchase the property for $294,000 or rent it from the airport for $4,500 a month in order to align with FAA guidelines, county officials said.

Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management director Tiffany Westbrook, who acknowledged the OEM doesn’t have a plan to finance the building, thinks the county could use CARES Act grants to renovate the space for their future use. In a general discussion between county entities, Westbrook and KCSO Undersheriff Dan Mattos highlighted various assets the building would provide.

“I think this is an opportunity that is not going to come by very often,” Westbrook said. “It’s been a really long time since we’ve had a funding opportunity to outfit an emergency operations center.”

The Office of Emergency Management is now in the basement at KCSO’s Government Way facility, but is often displaced because of a lack of space. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the office was forced to set up emergency operations centers at larger facilities such as the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

According to Westbrook, moving the office into the armory would give the entity a designated location to offer an around-the-clock emergency operations center, additional training spaces for first responders, housing for Kootenai County Sheriff’s K-9 unit and offices for Hayden-based deputies.

“We have this facility in the county that meets needs that we’ve had for a very long time,” Westbrook said. “It would free up space within the current sheriff’s office, and it’s really a win-win situation all the way around.”

During Monday’s meeting, the county discussed placing three entities — the KCSO Office of Emergency Management, Hayden-based deputies and airport staff — inside the facility. However, according to Commissioner Chris Fillios, an independent party is also considering buying the armory.

“The one party who is interested wants to occupy the entire facility,” Fillios said. “If that’s the case those other entities would have to make other arrangements.”

Fillios said this was one of the first discussions on renting the armory, but he believes the situation could be resolved by the end of the calendar year.