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South Sound 911 still homeless after plan falls through

Plans to move the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Pierce County’s social services department into one building, making room for a South Sound 911 campus, have fizzled.

The proposal’s failure means South Sound 911 once again is without a location for its communications hub.

“We knew at the onset this was a possibility, it was a concept proposal after all,” agency spokeswoman Kris McNamar said. “We are disappointed by this outcome. We were very much looking forward to this solution.”

South Sound 911 executive director Andrew Neiditz is out of town. County facilities staff members expect to meet with him and other South Sound 911 officials next week to review their options, McNamar said.

News that the health agency and social services department can’t move into one building as hoped was announced Wednesday at a board of health meeting.

“It can work, but it just didn’t make perfect sense for the long term,” county facilities director Bret Carlstad said Thursday.

County officials were sorting out the ripple effect of the news Thursday.

“We’re back at the drawing board,” said Nancy Sutton, board of health deputy director. “We still have facility needs. The county still has facility needs.”

The proposal called for moving the county’s Community Connections Department and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department across the street from the current location to a building at 3615 Pacific Avenue S.

The move would free up the land for South Sound 911 to build its campus, which would serve as the region’s nerve center for emergency dispatch services and record keeping.

That includes a 55,000-square-foot building to house police and fire communications services and a second, 25,000-square-foot building for administrative services.

We are disappointed by this outcome. We were very much looking forward to this solution.

Kris McNamar, South Sound 911 spokeswoman

The county had a preliminary agreement stating its intent to buy the building at 3615 Pacific Avenue S., but no final agreement had been reached, Carlstad said.

Before buying the building for $14.5 million and investing another $7.5 million in tenant improvements, the county wanted to make sure the space would work for the consolidation.

Turns out it won’t, officials determined.

“For the investment and the effort, it felt like were were making too many compromises in the near term and certainly over the long term,” Carlstad said.

The building would have to have been gutted and new office space built to accommodate the health department and county department. Even with a reconfiguration, there wasn’t enough space for everyone or the programs offered, Carlstad said.

Gig Harbor resident Jerry Gibbs has watched the most recent consolidation effort closely. He previously was involved in the derailment of the county’s plans to build a general services building to consolidate departments.

As chairman Citizens for Responsible Spending, Gibbs called the latest attempt a “very complex, convoluted plan that was destined to fail.”

“I am disappointed that again our county has tried to put a plan forward that is fatally flawed and now that’s impacting the goals of South Sound 911,” he said.

This is the second setback for South Sound 911 in the past year. Plans to build the campus on a 6-acre site in Fircrest were derailed last June because of unstable and possibly contaminated soil.

The proposal to build the South Sound 911 campus on Pacific Avenue was unveiled in March. An added bonus from the deal was a plan to raze the vacant Puget Sound Hospital.

Now it’s unknown when that would happen.

Despite the setback, Carlstad said, his staff continues to hunt for the right location

“We are doggedly pursuing alternate solutions,” he said. “They’re too immature and ill formed to talk about publicly, but my staff and I are exploring some other potential solutions.”

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

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