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Anoka County 911 dispatchers answer calls in the basement of the Government Center in downtown Anoka. With its low ceilings, the windowless room is noisy. Though more space is needed, there's none to be had.

But that's all about to change.

The county started construction Monday on a 42,000-square-foot Emergency Communications Center that will also house the county's radio shop, which provides and maintains about 3,800 radios and 700 pagers used by law enforcement and emergency telecommunicators.

"The new, state-of-the-art building will allow them to do their job better and with less stress," County Commissioner Julie Braastad said at Tuesday's County Board meeting. "It's certainly going to be a tremendous asset for public safety for Anoka County."

Braastad, who serves as chair of the county's Public Safety Committee, was among elected officials who attended a groundbreaking for the center, to be located off Hanson Boulevard in Andover.

In addition to features intended to make staff members' work easier, including a locker room and large data and television monitors, the facility will have a mental health component built in. Staff will have access to a quiet room to step away and decompress, as well as a wellness/fitness room to help relieve stress.

"That the county is investing in a new Emergency Communications Center to enhance capabilities and to create a more positive working environment is tremendous," Anoka County Sheriff Brad Wise said in an email. "I also expect this facility will be a great recruiting tool as we look to continue to hire the best of the best emergency communicators."

The communications center serves 11 law enforcement agencies and 17 fire departments in Anoka County. Call volumes have jumped from 109,000 calls per year in the late 1980s to more than 400,000 last year, county officials said.

The north metro county is expecting to spend $41 million on the facility, including $22 million on construction and $19 million for furniture and equipment. Federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars will cover about half the cost, with an additional $19 million coming from potential bonding or other sources, the county said.

Construction is projected to be completed in June 2024.

"The renderings they've put together look fantastic," County Board Chair Matt Look said in a statement, "and I'm sure the finished building will be just as good."