PORT ANGELES — The search continues for a site for the Joint Public Safety Facility in Port Angeles after officials with both Clallam County and the City of Port Angeles rule out a site at 19th and O streets owned by the Port of Port Angeles.
An alternative site for the Joint Public Safety Facility (JPSF) was identified by county officials after the Port Angeles City Council decided not to pursue a city-owned site at 18th and L streets because of comments made a public meeting urging keeping the vacant lot available for use as a practice field for youth athletics.
A new JPSE would house the Emergency Operations Center, which would be activated in an emergency such as a massive earthquake, Peninsula Communication or PenCom which provides dispatch for public safety agencies and potentially a westside fire station.
The 19th and O site is owned by the Port of Port Angeles, which would require the county to pay a lease on the property which could cost between $120,000 to $200,000 a year.
Caleb McMahon, Port of Port Angeles director of economic development, said that $120,000 would be the low end.
“The rates up there currently are about $0.06 per square foot per month all the way up to $0.25 per square foot per month depending on the piece of property… So an acre at that price could be $10,000 per month so $120,000 a year and that’s a price that we have never quoted up there before,” McMahon said.
The port would not be able to give the county less than the market rate on the site because of Federal Aviation Association (FAA) rules.
“There is an FAA regulation that requires us to be within a specific percent of market value, specifically for things that are non-aeronautical,” McMahon said.
Potential costs were the driving factors for the county to move on from the site.
“It was significantly higher than what we expected,” Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson said.
So what’s next? Choosing a site has been a three-year process. Are officials now back to Square One?
“I wouldn’t say that we are back to Square One,” Johnson said.
“If you go back, we knew that we needed to move our Emergency Operations Center and it had to be in a location that made a lot of sense if you had a major catastrophe and that took a while to decide, which pushed us out to the airport,” Johnson said.
Johnson said county and city officials are looking at other sites near the airport, one owned by the county, one owned by the port, and some private pieces of property up for sale.
”For the good of all people, we need a new EOC and 911 center,” Johnson said.
The current EOC is located in the basement of the Clallam County Courthouse which according to its last structural assessment would not withstand an earthquake 7.0 or higher. Additionally, the space has proven to be unworkable in the emergency events, such as floods in November.
The development of the JPSF is expected to cost between $13 to $18 million, depending on whether the county/city moves forward with developing a westside fire station.
Funding is available for the project from the state but time is running out to access it.
“We’re already asking to roll over part of the funds,” Johnson said. “We were given about $1.7 million and we asked to roll over $1.2 million and are hoping the state will approve that.
“If we can secure a site and do the planning that we want, we’re thinking the facility will be open by 2024,” Johnson said.
County and city officials are set to meet on May 23 to discuss the JPSF and potential locations.
Johnson has called for an executive session during the county commissioners’ Tuesday meeting to discuss a potential property purchase, according to the county meeting agenda.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.