O.S. public safety complex close to opening

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The new Ocean Springs Public Safety Complex on Highway 90 is set to open in just one month. It's eagerly anticipated since soil problems at the site and winter weather delays have pushed the project five months behind schedule.

Inside the fire house, there is plenty of space and separate upstairs living quarters for firefighters. The area will also play an important role in times of trouble, according to Fire Chief Jeffrey Ponson.

"It will contain our EOC [emergency operations center], so that's where we will function out of during hurricanes or other major disasters," Ponson said.

The 38,000 square foot building will make it through those disasters, built to withstand winds in excess of 150 miles per hour.

When the public safety complex is completed, it will offer the latest in innovation and amenities.  But it will also offer something that's even more important, a boost in morale.

"The quality of life is going to be a whole lot better in this station than it has been in the other stations where you're cramped up and you all are living on top of each other in one room," said fire training officer David Wicker. "It's just going to be a whole lot better for the morale."

On the police side of the complex, there is something here that can't be found in the old downtown station: room for the future.

"This building has walk in closets, plenty of storage, bigger offices, a lot more room to grow in," Police Chief Lionel Cothern said.

When it comes to protecting the public, either from crime or fires, the new complex will provide an advantage over the old offices.

"I think our response time is going to be much quicker than usual, because of instead of being downtown and congested, we're out here in the wide open off Highway 90," Lt. Bruce Spearnock said. "It will be a quicker area to get out of."

The best description though of what this new complex will mean for law enforcement comes from the police chief himself.

"It's like moving from a dump to a kingdom."

The fire department should be ready to occupy by mid-July, with the police department and courtroom opening about a month later.

The $6.5 million complex is being paid for with grant money from the state, as well as funds from a two percent tax on restaurant food and beverages in the city.

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