South Sound 911 is one step closer to becoming a public development authority, thanks to approval by each of the agency’s six member legislative bodies: the cities of Tacoma, Lakewood, Fife, and Puyallup; Pierce County; and West Pierce Fire & Rescue. While the move to public authority status will not affect any public services, it signifies South Sound 911 is ready for greater regional responsibility in public safety communications, and a more substantive and self-sufficient organizational status.

As a public authority, South Sound 911 will be able to cover its own liability, hold title to property, and incur debt, if necessary.

South Sound 911’s executive director thinks the timing couldn’t be better.

“We’re getting ready to break ground on a new public safety communications center, so it’s only fitting that we be responsible for the construction of the new facility – and actually own it,” South Sound 911 Executive Director Andrew Neiditz said. “Our stakeholders not only recognized the need for us to become a public authority, but they championed it.”

The member agencies, with South Sound 911, explored other governance structures before deciding on the public authority model.

“South Sound 911 has always been about the future,” South Sound 911 Policy Board Chair and Pierce County Councilmember Doug Richardson said. “In the beginning, member agencies needed an interlocal agreement to ensure all parties – including police and fire, and the community – were part of South Sound 911’s formation.”

“We’ve established the direction, we know where we’re headed, and we’re ready to take the next step,” Richardson said.

Before the agency officially formed in 2012, interlocal agreement (ILA) signatory agencies established South Sound 911’s governance structure. However, as the agency assumed more responsibilities through consolidation and its efforts to improve emergency communication countywide, South Sound 911 and its stakeholders recognized limitations to the ILA structure. There was a need for better representation for all of the supported agencies, as well as more autonomy for South Sound 911.

“Consolidating 911 centers is just one piece of what South Sound 911 has been able to do; it also created a mechanism for other improvements like the regional public safety radio system, the unified computer-aided dispatch system, and the new facility,” Operations Board Chair and West Pierce Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Jim Sharp said. “We’re working better together, so let’s continue that collaborative work and include other agencies at the table.”

When South Sound 911 becomes a public authority, an 11-member Board of Directors will be South Sound 911’s sole governing entity; the board will be comprised of elected officials with representation more reflective of the agency’s customer base.