Clallam County, Port of Port Angeles negotiating lease for Emergency Operations Center

City dispatch could also be part of equation

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County is negotiating a 50-year lease with the Port of Port Angeles to move the Emergency Operations Center to a building adjacent to Fairchild International Airport, and is looking for a “definite commitment” from the city of Port Angeles in co-locating the city’s dispatch center there.

During a work session Monday, county and port officials said they are now negotiating a lease for 15,000 square feet of space at the port’s 10.10 building near the airport. The current draft of the lease shows the cost of renting the area starting at $7,500 per month with adjustments annually and includes two 10-year renewal options.

The county and city have been exploring ways to move the county’s Emergency Operations Center out of the basement of the courthouse and co-locating it with the city’s 9-1-1 dispatch center in an area that is more resistant to earthquakes and soil liquefaction within close proximity to the airport.

The details of the lease are still being discussed, but it has a projected commencement date of Sept. 1. Attorneys from the county have reviewed the draft and have made suggestions.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said he also has some parts of the lease he wants looked at closer, but didn’t mention specifics.

“There are some other business kinds of issues relative to that contract,” Johnson said.

Sheriff Bill Benedict said that he wants to move forward quickly and that he doesn’t want to get into a situation of “paralysis by analysis.”

“We see the need and we have an awesome opportunity to move,” Benedict said. “What I would like to do is get clarification from the city in their participation.”

Benedict suggested the county should take action this month during a joint meeting with the Port of Port Angeles, but officials said that might be too quick.

Commissioner Mark Ozias said the city needs time to reach a formal decision. The Port of Port Angeles commissioners would also need to take action.

The city and county officials will present options for an emergency operations center and dispatch center during the city council meeting July 16, said Police Chief Brian Smith, who did not attend the county meeting.

“Something like a lease is premature in terms of where [the city] is at,” Smith said. “We have to get direction from council. We’ll present to council our findings and our recommendations. That will dictate what our next steps are.”

Smith said the city will consider multiple options, some being better than others. Officials looked at how well a new facility would survive an earthquake, the cost to retrofit, the ability to leverage other uses and whether new construction would be needed.

Smith said relocating the Emergency Operations Center is important to area law enforcement and public safety officials and that the current dispatch center is less than ideal.

“Our 9-1-1 center now lives in a small space with no room to expand and … it may not rate well on the survivability side,” he said.

Benedict said the county and city have applied for a port security grant in an effort to secure $1 million for renovations at the site and should hear back this month on whether it will receive the money.

He said about half of the money would be used to relocate Peninsula Communications and the other half would go toward county expenses.

Benedict said the city and county would each be using about 50 percent of the space in the building and suggested a 50-50 split on the lease.

“It sounds like there’s some analysis and negotiation and I think it’s safe to say that we want to be supportive of this process and conversation,” Ozias said.

Ozias suggested calling Jefferson County officials to see if there is interest in co-locating JeffCom 9-1-1 at the site also.

Officials have long discussed the possibility of merging JeffCom and PenCom, but hasn’t been discussed publicly in relation to moving to the port-owned building.

“If Jefferson County does join us, it is going to present some real governance challenges,” Benedict said. “It’s hard enough with two of us, but with three of us … it’s not insurmountable.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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