The public got its first peek at the new location for Knox County Public Safety the afternoon of March 5. Staff opened the doors to the facility for an open house after officially moving into building on March 1.

The renovated building houses the sheriff's office, communications center and Knox County Emergency Management Agency.

The county awarded a $1,212,208 contract in August 2012 to Ganneston Construction Corp. of Augusta for the work, which included adding a 2,000-square-foot addition for the communications center. EMA Director Ray Sisk said emergency management was able to secure nearly $400,000 in grants to go toward renovating the space.

The communications center allows for an expanded work space. The center previously operated out of a couple of rooms in the former sheriff's office at the Knox County Jail.

"It's pretty exciting, everyone is very proud," said Knox County Communications Supervisor Stephanie Gibbs.

The center now provides for a separate office space, which allows for private conversations with employees, making recordings of calls if needed and also storage, Gibbs said.

Dispatcher John Gamage said the center has two people on duty around the clock and, at times, up to four people working.The department has 10 full-time dispatchers, one director and one supervisor and they take about 30,000 calls each year.

The new center has four to six consoles, which Gamage said can support dispatchers from another county utilizing the space if needed. Knox dispatchers worked in Waldo County for a week during the move, he said.

There also is a large screen on the wall with a map that pinpoints the exact locations of where calls are going, Gamage said.

The EMA offices contains a large conference room and several offices. Sisk said the office has space for Red Cross volunteers to set up shop in the event of a disaster and said he is particularly excited to be able to hold training classes at the office, instead of at various town offices or schools. The sheriff's office has evidence and interview rooms, a lab, a conference room and offices for the sheriff, detectives and deputies.

The building was previously owned by Village NetMedia.

Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 120 or by email at klincoln@courierpublicationsllc.com.