Emergency communication center primes for construction on Eastside


South Sound 911 hosted a community meeting last week to update neighbors and policy makers on the progress on the design of the future public safety communications center and to gain feedback on the current plan as construction prepares to jump from design papers to walls and landscaping for the Eastside facility.

The state-of-the-art communication and records campus will be constructed at the site of the former Puget Sound Hospital at 3580 Pacific Ave. with the first shovels of dirt set to turn in early 2019. Ultimately, the $65 million campus will house the unified, county-wide 911 call center for police and fire dispatch, a municipal emergency operations center, administration office, police and fire records as well as offices for fingerprinting, concealed pistol license application processing and other services.

The agency is now operating two 911 centers in Pierce County that answer about 900,000 emergency and non-emergency calls annually for 19 law enforcement and 18 fire agencies around the county. Those operations will merge into the new facility once in opens in 2020.

“We are really on the fast track on this,” South Sound 911 Director Andrew Neiditz said. “We really need to get all of our players under one roof.”

The community meeting on the state of the project came after South Sound 911 staffers and building designers spent the last few months working on the internal designs of the three-story building to create natural work flows between departments and provide easy access to members of the public who visit the building for public records and reports. Now that much of that work has been done, the focus now shifts on the exterior design of the building and the features that will be required to make sure that it remains operational during a natural disaster or other emergency.

“Like other essential facilities, it will be designed to be able to withstand natural or manmade catastrophic events so South Sound 911 may continue providing critical emergency services for first responders and the countywide community,” according to an update since the former Puget Sound Hospital on the site was removed and the parcels leveled for construction of the new facility. That work has brought the change from what would have been a “daylight basement-style” into an at-grade level.

“While this change affects perception of the building’s height and size, it has little or no impact on the relationship of the originally proposed roofline,” according to the update. “The overall impact of the facility remains far less significant than the old hospital in terms of building height and mass, and number of structures.”

South Sound 911 is governed by two boards whose membership is comprised of leaders from South Sound 911’s member agencies – Pierce County, the City of Tacoma, the City of Lakewood, West Pierce Fire & Rescue, the City of Fife, and the City of Puyallup – and its partner police and fire agencies. The Policy Board of elected officials provides legislative and policy direction and the Operations Board of police and fire chiefs provides operational oversight and direction. The agency is funded from the voter-approved tax increase of .01 percent sales tax increase that passed in 2011.

Another round of public outreach and meetings will come in the late fall or winter, when people will be able to see more details about the building. For more information about the project, visit www.southsound911.org/pscc.

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