Fife leaders have finalized a pact that’s expected to add the city’s emergency dispatch operation to South Sound 911 – a move that leaves Puyallup as the last holdout yet to sign on with the regional dispatch effort.
The participation agreement makes Fife a member of the new agency. It guarantees the city of 9,100 people a permanent seat on the South Sound 911 governing board.
It also ensures the city’s dispatch center employees will be offered jobs with the new agency upon the transition, which likely still is a few years off.
Fife still could back out; the agreement gives city leaders a window to opt in or not once they’re given more budget information and an actual transition date.
Fife Mayor Rob Cerqui called the participation agreement “a good step.” He said he thinks South Sound 911 “ultimately will be a good operation to get everybody on the same page” when it comes to emergency communications.
Pat McCarthy, Pierce County executive and chairwoman of the new agency’s governing board, also praised the action. “For (Fife) to be onboard means we’re moving toward a fully operational regional system that provides access and ability for upgrades to all firefighters and law enforcement across the county,” she said.
Fife’s action means Puyallup could be the only city in the county with its own dispatch center that’s not a member of the new agency.
Puyallup has participated in discussions about the upgraded radio network that’s part of the project. But Puyallup leaders at this time aren’t planning for their city to become part of the consolidated emergency dispatch operation.
Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen called the South Sound 911 plan “ambitious,” but said there are still too many unknowns. Puyallup already has a good dispatch operation, he said.
The small City of Buckley also has its own dispatch center. But the City Council last week took steps to eventually shut down it down amid a budget crunch.
South Sound 911’s governing board approved Fife’s participation agreement Wednesday.
The pact also guarantees the level of service within the city after the transition will “meet or exceed” existing levels.
And it says the city will receive an annual subsidy until the transition for operating its dispatch center. In 2013, it will be $110,000, or 10 percent of the dispatch center’s operations budget this year.
The city dispatches for its own Police Department, as well as Milton, Eatonville and Normandy Park police. The City Council several months ago approved a memorandum of understanding to guide the process of joining South Sound 911.
The new agency aims to improve and unify emergency communications in the county.
County voters last fall approved a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to help foot the bill.
An upgraded radio system is being put into place to replace a patchwork of networks for first responders. It should be fully operational within 18 months, said Jim Sharp, South Sound 911 project manager.
Emergency dispatch operations also will be consolidated into a new facility or facilities, replacing outdated ones. Sharp said officials will analyze whether to build one or two new centers to handle police, fire and medical calls.
Whatever is decided should be up and running in about three years, he email@example.com