New emergency services building could be located near airport

Multiple agencies would share $12.3 million project

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County and the city of Port Angeles have identified a location for a $12.3 million multipurpose public safety facility near William R. Fairchild International Airport.

The combined Emergency Operations Center, 9-1-1 dispatch center and westside fire station will be built on Port of Port Angeles property at 2417 W. 19th St. at the northeast corner of 19th and South O streets.

The 17,000-square-foot complex is scheduled to be completed in October 2022, the three county commissioners heard Monday.

“The key to this is we want serviceable, secure and survivable emergency management facilities, public safety facilities,” said Dale Jackson, project manager with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

“Without that, we are not going to be able to meet the needs of our citizens in a major emergency.”

The city of Port Angeles will cover a $7.9 million share of the total project cost, according to Jackson’s presentation.

City Manager Nathan West told commissioners the various agencies that use Peninsula Communications (PenCom), the region’s 9-1-1 dispatch center, will help cover the city’s share.

Clallam County will fund the remaining $4.4 million, Jackson said.

Clallam County Undersheriff and Emergency Management Director Ron Cameron said the county would seek grants to help pay for the project.

“We really are going to be reliant on those grant opportunities being successful,” West added.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and PenCom will each occupy a 6,000-square-foot portion of the modular-designed building, Jackson said. A new city fire station will be housed in a 5,000-square-foot section of the complex.

County and city officials have said the existing EOC, which is in the basement of the county courthouse, and the PenCom facility at City Hall have insufficient space.

The EOC will not survive a projected magnitude-9.0 Cascadia subduction zone earthquake off the Pacific Coast, and the airport in west Port Angeles will be an emergency supply hub after such an earthquake or any other major disaster, county officials have said.

“I’ve been a great proponent of this,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said of the project.

“I think it’s absolutely essential. I don’t care whether we’re talking about Cascadia and the need for a location at the airport, or COVID-19, or who knows what’s next.

“When you go downstairs and look at what Ron (Cameron) has down there in emergency management, everyone’s kind of on top of each other and not as safe as they can be,” Johnson added.

Board Chairman Mark Ozias agreed.

“This certainly, from my perspective, needs to continue to be a priority,” Ozias said.

Cameron said the new public safety building may also be shared by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

County and city officials first considered the port-owned 1010 Building for the public safety complex.

That facility, which is temporarily housing a COVID-19 Social Distancing Center, was deemed insufficient because of needed structural modifications, a lack of space and poor access for emergency vehicles, Jackson said.

City and county officials will negotiate a 50-year lease with the port for the 1.5-acre site at 19th and O streets. Jackson said the proposed terms of the lease would be about $35,000 per year.

PenCom provides dispatch services to 15 law enforcement, hospital and fire protection agencies in Clallam County.

The existing PenCom center at City Hall has insufficient space and does not meet seismic or security standards, city officials have said.

“When you look at what PenCom is currently operating in, that does not work for us,” West said.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said the public safety facility had been in the works for about five years.

“It’s picked up quite a bit of steam,” Benedict said in the work session Monday.

“I think we’re in a good position to move on with it, and I would urge that we take the next steps.”

The next steps for county commissioners will be a formal decision to proceed in October and approval of a design budget in November.

Design will cost an estimated $1.4 million and construction will be about $8.7 million, Jackson said.

If the project remains on schedule, the new complex will be completed in October 2022, Jackson said.

State Reps. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, and Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, both of whom are former Clallam County commissioners, expressed support for the project Monday.

“A well-thought-out project like this with a multi-jurisdictional benefit and multi-jurisdictional sort of request, I think, has some legs,” said Tharinger, who chairs the House Capital Budget Committee.

Port Angeles Chief of Police Brian Smith and Fire Chief Ken Dubuc will brief the Port Angeles City Council on the same project at 6 p.m. today.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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