PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Emergency Management is pursuing building a Joint Public Safety Facility near Fairchild International Airport and aims to provide more information for the public on the development process.
“We are at a point where it has become vitally important that we get the message on this facility out to the public. We want to get the maximum amount of public involvement on this project that we can generate,” said Dale Jackson, project manager.
Officials with the city of Port Angeles and Clallam County County Plan to hold public information briefings throughout the spring, Jackson said. The public will be able to make comments then.
Schedules are expected to be on www.clallam.net and https://www.cityofpa.us/ by the end of the week.
City and county officials have been working to develop a new Joint Public Safety Facility that would meet the needs of all the involved departments which include the Clallam County Emergency Management, Port Angeles 911 dispatch (PenCom), and potentially another fire station.
“We have had this project underway for about 2.5 to three years, but it was very vague in the past and we really had not formalized a lot of what we have done,” Jackson said.
“But now we’re down to the point where we have actually done the conceptual design work and we’re ready for detail design,” he added.
The location of the new facility has been discussed since 2019.
In November, officials identified a potential site at west 18th and south L streets, with an alternative site just down the street at 19th and O streets.
“The potential site is by far the more preferable site for us right now… Both are located just north of the Fairchild International Airport and it’s important to us that we are near the airport because Fairchild is really the major focal point at which aid and relief will come into this county in the event of a major disaster,” Jackson said.
An environmental assessment has been conducted on the site and a geotechnical survey is underway.
The 18th and L streets site would mean the loss of a practice field for youth sports.
“If we elect to move forward on this site we will have to look at finding mitigations and other locations for this practice field to replace what’s lost here,” Jackson said.
Additionally, the county and city would need to work with the Bureau of Land Management to change the designation of a portion that is zoned strictly for park and recreation development to allow for the building of the facility.
The completed conceptual design of the building has modules dedicated to these departments to meet their individual needs as well as shared spaces that could serve multiple functions if needed.
The estimated total cost of building this facility is $13 million without the fire station and $18 million with it.
“It’s a collaborative effort because it is more cost-effective to build a joint facility than it is to build multiple singular facilities,” Jackson said.
“It will avoid duplication of effort and reduces ultimately the cost to the taxpayers.”
The design of the new facility allows for room to build the west side fire station should the city, choose to build it. Thus far the city has deferred that development.
“Right now, funding still makes it uncertain that we would be able to construct that as part of the initial facility,” Jackson said.
”We are committed at this point to doing a 30 percent detailed design that would allow us to complete a detailed design in fairly short order.”
Overall it is estimated that it will take at least six years to construct this facility; it would be fully operational by fall 2024.
The EOC has obtained $1.7 million in state funding for this project along with about $350,oo0 from the county, with the potential to receive more as it approaches the construction phase, ideally in summer 2023, Jackson said.
Federal grants and city funds are expected to be part of the funding as well, though those amounts have not been announced.
Meanwhile this spring the project will be entering the full detailed design phase which will cost an estimated $1.1 million.
The current EOC is located in the basement of the Clallam County Courthouse, which according to Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Cameron is not an ideal location for the region’s EOC in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake or any other emergency event.
“Being in the basement of a Cascadia-prone location is probably not the best idea in the world,” Cameron said.
A Cascadia quake would be a 9.0 magnitude or higher. According to Cameron, the courthouse would barely survive a 7.0 magnitude quake.
Apart from the survivability of the current EOC, space and flow issues have made responding to emergency events such as fires, floods, and even COVID-19 difficult.
“During emergencies, a lot of critical information is relayed in face-to-face conversations because other communication systems are likely down,” said Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith said.
”During the windstorm and flooding in November we had people running between the two buildings to relay information. In a Cascadia event, we wouldn’t be able to do that and critical information that could help people would be lost, so it just makes sense to have us all in one place,” Smith said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at email@example.com.