South Sound 911 reached a tentative agreement with Pierce County this month to further evaluate property currently occupied by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and county offices in the adjacent Sound View building. Combined, the properties would be home to South Sound 911’s new emergency communications center which will house operations from six 911 centers, and administrative and public services.
The development team contracted by South Sound 911 will analyze geo-technical and environmental findings to determine the site’s suitability for the public safety communications center.
“We learned from past experience of the importance of the due diligence process, of ensuring that the site will meet the needs of an emergency communications center,” South Sound 911 Executive Director Andrew Neiditz said. “If there’s an earthquake or other disaster, this building needs to be standing so it can carry out its mission of linking first responders to those in need of aid.”
The 3602 Pacific Ave. location was among those remaining when attempts to reach agreement with other property owners stalled or fell through. A Fircrest site previously under agreement was eliminated from consideration last June after fill soil and contamination concerns were unearthed during the due diligence process.
Consideration of the site came from an original list of over 30 potential sites after an extensive search that included available real estate, multi-parcel arrangements, and space and land not currently on the market. That list was narrowed after a developer-led preliminary evaluation of usable space, proximity to potential hazards, access to power and utilities, and site integrity, and was further narrowed after the application of operational considerations.
“At this point, we know that finding a suitable site has not been as simple as it seemed,” Neiditz said. “While we certainly have high hopes for the Pacific Avenue site, we are continuing to consider additional sites so we do not find ourselves in a predicament similar to last year.”
The future home of South Sound 911’s public safety communications center will include two buildings and parking for employees and visitors. One building, approximately 55,000 sq. ft. in size, will house 911 and dispatch operations, as well as a municipal emergency operations center (EOC). It will be constructed to meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards for public safety communications centers.
The second building, approximately 25,000 sq. ft. in size, will house South Sound 911’s administrative offices and a public counter offering services such as fingerprinting and the processing of concealed pistol license applications. The administrative building will be constructed to meet general office building standards; this keeps costs lower than a single, larger building constructed to meet the stringent standards for the communications center.
The site will also include equipment for radio communications, and fuel and water tanks for emergency operations.
Project completion is anticipated in late 2018 and is estimated to cost $62 million.
South Sound 911 will host a public meeting to inform community members of the project plans and expectations, as well as answer questions and gather feedback. The meeting date and time will be announced via South Sound 911’s website, Twitter feed and Facebook page.
“When we held 13 community meetings last year and discussed plans for the public safety communications center, there was little, if any, opposition to what we’re ultimately trying to achieve – which is to improve the emergency communication system and to make it more efficient,” South Sound 911 Executive Director Andrew Neiditz said. “As much as our communities want us to improve public safety, we want to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood – and we look forward to reacquainting ourselves.”
In November 2011, residents of Pierce County voted for a 0.1 percent sales tax increase to support public safety, which included the consolidation of 911 centers. For nearly three years, South Sound 911 has been working on projects and processes in support of the consolidation and collocation effort, including the construction of a new facility. The South Sound 911 public safety communications center is being built in cooperation with Pierce County for the project’s tax-exempt bond financing under the “63-20” project delivery and financing model.
For more information about the public safety communications center, please visit South Sound 911’s project page.