Bids are being sought for the construction of a new $1.6 million emergency operations center off Chestnut Street near the county jail after the Board of Supervisors approved the final design plans and specifications on Monday.

The board examined the plans at the recommendation of county Emergency Management Director Jeff Mayo.

The EOC will house 911 communications, administrative offices, a so-called "war room," support space and storage.

Supervisors are seeking five alternates in addition to the base bid, one of which includes converting a copy/sleep room into a safe room with 12-inch blocks filled with concrete and reinforcement added to the walls and ceiling. The safe room would have space to shelter up to 40 people.

The other alternates would:

• Harden the exterior wall, roof, windows and doors of the EOC to increase the wind survivability standards. This would include 12-inch reinforced concrete walls as opposed to the eight-inch concrete wall specifications on the base bid advertisement.

The additional concrete reinforcement would bring the EOC up to FEMA 361 project standards, making it "fully encapsulated and able to resist the most tremendous tornado" with winds greater than 200 mph, Mayo said.

• Provide self-adhering ice and water shield over the concrete roof deck.

• Provide cabinets in the conference room, communications room and emergency operations center room.

• Provide an entry alcove instead of an entry canopy.

• Provide an emergency generator. Mayo said the generator had to be advertised as an alternate because it was equipment and not part of construction.

Preliminary site work is under way for the new EOC, which is expected to take 180 days to complete once construction gets under way.

The county was awarded two matching grants to aid in funding the new facility though supervisors have not determined how the county will fund its share.

A $976,800 grant was awarded to Neshoba County to help build the center.

The 25 percent matching grant was presented by the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security, on behalf of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

In addition, the county received a $233,267 federal matching grant to harden the exterior wall, roof, windows and doors.

The county elected to increase the wind survivability standards on the EOC after officials reexamined initial specifications in the wake of an EF5-tornado which destroyed or damaged 91 structures in the county in April 2011.

National Weather Service data showed that the EF-5 tornado, which left a 29-mile path from Neshoba to Noxubee, packed winds up to 205 mph.

After the 2011 tornado, Mayo said it became obvious that maximum protection for the county's most critical emergency facility was essential, since it will house 911 communications.

The EOC will help officials coordinate emergency services across various agencies and departments for the entire county from the one location, Mayo has said.