PUYALLUP The last holdout from a regional emergency dispatch system under the newly created South Sound 911 is now pursuing a partnership with that agency.
The city is considering a range of options, including becoming a member and providing its dispatch center for the use of South Sound 911. Puyallup residents already pay the same 0.1-percent sales tax to the agency that other county residents do.
The Puyallup City Council could vote on a memorandum of understanding between the city and South Sound 911 as soon as March 19. The proposed agreement was introduced Tuesday night. Council members had no comments or questions.
City Manager Bill McDonald said the city wants to make sure Puyallup and South Sound 911 are collaborating and that the citys system remains state of the art.
It could take us all the way to membership, McDonald said. It could end up short of that.
McDonald said he and Andrew Neiditz have met several times since October. Neiditz was then Lakewoods city manager and helped lead the transition to South Sound 911. In January, he was confirmed as executive director of the regional agency.
Theres a sense that there can be and ought to be a great relationship between South Sound 911 and the City of Puyallup, Neiditz said. It will take some time to get there.
The policy board for South Sound 911 would have to approve the agreement after the council adopts it.
Board Chairwoman and County Executive Pat McCarthy said she hadnt seen the proposal.
Im glad Puyallup is looking at wanting to have a conversation about joining a regional radio system for Pierce County, which we now call South Sound 911, McCarthy said. The devil is always in the details, and we would need to look at what they presented.
Both McDonald and Neiditz cited technology as a motivator for their discussions.
The thing that is driving this is the technology, making sure that we are always state of the art not behind the curve, McDonald said.
Puyallup is scheduled to move into a new, larger dispatch center March 21. Puyallup is Pierce Countys third-largest city with a population of 37,620.
The proposed memorandum marks a dramatic turnaround for Puyallup, which opposed the creation of South Sound 911 and the tax measure funding it.
In November 2011, Pierce County voters approved raising the sales tax by a penny on every $10 purchase to help build a cohesive radio network and one or two dispatch centers. The upgraded radio system for emergency responders will comply with new federal standards and replace a patchwork of incompatible radio systems.
At the time, the Puyallup City Council voiced its opposition to a new tax. Then-Mayor Kathy Turner said Puyallup already had made improvements, and its residents essentially would be double-taxed if voters raised the sales tax.
Paying twice isnt something my constituents want to do, Turner said in July 2011.
However, Puyallup voters narrowly approved the countywide sales tax measure for South Sound 911, McDonald said.
That was a game-changer, he said.
Neiditz said he and McDonald have talked about upgrading Puyallups radio system as South Sound 911 carries out its improvements.
The memorandum calls for the agency to reimburse Puyallup for its costs because the improved system would be used across the whole region, McDonald said.
Member agencies of South Sound 911 are Pierce County, the City of Tacoma, the City of Lakewood, the City of Fife and West Pierce Fire & Rescue.
Puyallups dispatch and radio system provides service for police departments in Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Sumner.
The two-page memo says Puyallups participation on the South Sound 911 board could range from an observer participant to full membership.
The agreement says the two parties should study South Sound 911 using Puyallups dispatch services as a primary or secondary dispatch location.
McDonald said South Sound 911 could utilize Puyallups dispatch services for a fee and as long as the city maintains control.
Were interested in getting our system used to the extent it can be used, McDonald said. Were willing to sell service to South Sound 911.
Neiditz said a committee for South Sound 911 has started reviewing where new dispatch services for police and fire will be located.
He said he expects Puyallups center would be considered.
Nothing is off the table, he said.