While the U.S. Military may have its legendary Area 51 where it is rumored to have housed mysterious aliens from outer space after a spaceship crashed in Arizona in 1947, Hudson County can boast its own deep money pit, Building 77, into which taxpayers poured millions of dollars in renovation costs over the last several years in an effort to give the county Office of Emergency Management its own digs in Kearny.
Recently gutted only to have local officials learn that the structure had historical significance and should have been preserved, Building 77 is getting nearer to becoming a countywide emergency communications headquarters as the Hudson County freeholders authorize purchases of equipment.
Too late to honor the historic role the building played in America’s war effort in World War II, the building will be fitted with a plaque on the all so that future generations will be able to appreciate its value.
Located at the top of Newark Bay in Kearny near the Jersey City border, Building 77 was among a number of historic military sites along that waterfront that serviced seat bearing and other military operations during the depths of WWII.
“The site was where many of these things were fixed,” said Freeholder Bill O’Dea. “Unfortunately, nobody bothered to check if it had historical significance before work started there. No one checked with the Department of the Interior.”
Destined to become headquarters for the Office of Emergency Management as well as providing storage space for other county needs such as vehicles and other items, Building 77 has become something of a money pit.
O’Dea said not was the county unaware of the need for a variety of items, such as checking the historic significance, but also got hung up in the quagmire of an unexpected environmental cleanup.
“Unfortunately, nobody bothered to check if it had historical significance before work started there.” – Freeholder Bill O’Dea
For many years, the county OEM shared space with the Jersey City OEM. The new facility with its communication network will, according to county officials, provide one more level of protection to residents of Hudson County – if, of course, Building 77 doesn’t come up with any more issues.
The county appears to be on track now, as freeholders at their Sept. 13 meeting authorized the award of a bid for electronic equipment for the new emergency operations center, a $107,642 contract to firms. In another bid they awarded a $43,111 contract for new conference tables, and authorized a purchase of cellular services with AT&T as well.
The concept is to provide one communications headquarters where all the key decision makers in an emergency can connect. OEM officers became the center of a local strategy for dealing with major disasters after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. A national report issued to Congress in the mid-1990s established the 1998 Federal Response Plan, and the need for every agency at every level to understand its role and responsibilities. Each level of government was required to accumulate information about their communities and establish protocols for dealing with emergencies such as establishing which group was responsible for what response, and to facilitate communication between them.
The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks showed that there were still many serious deficiencies that local, state, and federal officials have been seeking to rectify.
The OEM center will not be used exclusively for acts of terror, but for any emergency that requires the coordination of emergency services that cross municipal, county, or even state lines, and where communication is essential to a coordinated response.