LAWRENCEVILLE - Thomas Rutledge remembers when the radio room for Gwinnett's public safety communications were based in a tiny room and calls were sent to officers by hand-writing information on a car and then using a conveyor belt to get it to the correct dispatcher.
Now, the computerized E-911 system will get an even bigger upgrade.
Officials broke ground Tuesday on a 45,000-square-foot annex to Gwinnett Police headquarters, which will house the radio dispatchers and 911 call-takers as well as a state-of-the-art emergency operations center.
"This is another great step for this police department and public safety throughout Gwinnett County," Police Chief Charles Walters said.
"This is a building that is sorely needed, and we're awfully glad to see it come about."
Communications manager Angela Conley has said the new facility will create more room for dispatchers, including a possible future 311 system for non-emergency calls.
Gwinnett's Emergency Management Director Alan Doss said the operations center is also important, although Walters said he hopes the county never has to use it.
"We're in a temporary location now. It doesn't give us the capabilities we need," Doss said. "It'll be special when we have it."
The $15.2 million project, funded by the county's special purpose local option sales tax, is expected to be complete in early 2010.
"The taxpayers in Gwinnett County have emphasized public safety as priority No. 1," Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said. "We're really proud of this facility and what it will become."