Peninsula-wide 9-1-1 consortium moves forward with Jefferson County study
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Karl Hatton, JeffCom 9-1-1 director, addresses the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners Monday in Port Townsend.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The consolidation of emergency services to create a Peninsula-wide 9-1-1 consortium took a step forward Monday with approval of a feasibility study by the board of Jefferson County Commissioners.

“Our intent is to get a study together and give us some answers whether regionalization does really work for our two communities,” JeffCom 9-1-1 Director Karl Hatton told the commissioners.

JeffCom, or Jefferson Communications, manages the dispatching system in East Jefferson County.

“The question is whether there are technologies we can share with Port Angeles and other centers that are cost-effective.”

“I've worked with Karl on this and also worked with [former director] Janet [Silvus] before she left,” said PenCom Director Steve Romberg.

“If we can consolidate services safely and effectively and save the taxpayers money, we have an obligation to do this.”

Port Angeles-based PenCom, or Peninsula Communications, handles dispatching for the East End and central Clallam County.

The memorandum of understanding signed by the commissioners calls on the Washington State Military Department to conduct a “study of the feasibility of consolidation of E911 systems and operations . . . determine if it is in the best interests of the counties and residents [and develop] a range of options for consolidating . . . some or all systems on a regional basis.”

Romberg said he intends to take the resolution to the Clallam County commissioners for consideration in the near future.

The Clallam commissioners could approve the memorandum as is or add modifications, Romberg said.

As part of the process, the counties would assemble a six-member regional advisory committee that would include Romberg, Hatton and two members to be determined from each jurisdiction.

The study process would be funded by the state and require no county outlays, Hatton said.

“It's important that we take the leadership on this,” Hatton said.

“A lot of changes could be mandated, and it's better to do it in a way that benefits us rather than being told what to do.”

Much of the requirements involve equipment replacement and updates.

“There are significant costs involved in implementing next-generation 9-1-1, and these costs can be shared,” Hatton said.

“It will allow us to receive text and pictures and all kinds of data from people who call in, which is not possible with our current phone system.”

Hatton said JeffCom's phone system is “well past its usable life,” and it would cost about $300,000 to replace.

The same system in larger Clallam would cost around $350,000.

The two agencies, he said, could purchase a single phone system, and it would still have the capacity to accommodate other locales.

Hatton said he expects the study to be done this year, and a full proposal for the collaboration would be completed by the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015.

The recommendations could include the construction of a centralized facility that would serve as an emergency center for both counties.

Hatton said the center could be anywhere — Port Angeles, Port Townsend or even Forks — but the best decision could be to find a location somewhere between Sequim and Port Townsend to keep the existing staffs intact and minimize the commute time for all.

“We've looked at several different options,” Hatton said.

“We might have one central location, or we could have a co-location model where we aren't housed in the same building, or we could be the same agency in two facilities — or we could continue as two agencies.”

About 35 people currently work in both centers. These jobs could be consolidated, but it is too soon to have that discussion, Romberg said.

Hatton, who was named in March to replace Silvus with the title of interim director, was hired permanently at a board meeting Thursday.

As director, he will receive $72,000 a year, up from the $69,996 he earned as interim director and the $66,626 earned by his predecessor.



Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 01. 2013 6:07PM
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