Remodel Approved for Skagit County, Wash., 911

Stakeholders have been working on improving conditions at the dispatch center for at least a year and a half, but the issue of who owns the building was only brought up recently.

by Brandon Stone, Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash. / February 10, 2017

(TNS) - Public officials in Skagit County, Wash., voted Thursday to approve a remodel of the county’s emergency dispatch center.

Skagit 911’s 12-member board of directors, which is composed of mayors, the county commissioners and representatives from police departments, approved $450,000 for more phones and computer consoles to allow dispatchers to better coordinate first responders.

Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau was the lone member of the board to vote against the remodel because of concerns about the unclear nature of the relationship between the county, which owns the building, and Skagit 911, the tenant.

Stakeholders have been working on improving conditions at the dispatch center for at least a year and a half, but the issue of who owns the building was only brought up recently, she said.

If the Skagit 911 board is investing taxpayer dollars into the renovation, Boudreau said, it should have a clear understanding of the landlord/tenant relationship.

“I don’t want to spend half a million (dollars) in tenant improvements to turn around and ... be given 30 days (to vacate the building,” she said.

The building that houses Skagit 911 also houses the county’s Emergency Medical Services office and the Department of Emergency Management.

Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki said in the meeting the county had no interest in charging rent.

Mike Voss, operations manager with Skagit 911, reminded the board that time was running out of time to get the renovations underway. The center’s new phones will arrive in early May, he said. Before that, the center needs new desks, which needed to ordered 6-9 weeks in advance. To fit the new desks, the center needs to reconfigure its space, a project that needs to be put out to bid.

“We really need to have this approved today to meet the timeline,” Voss said.

Boudreau and Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton voiced frustration with a recent state grant request from the county commissioners for $500,000 for preliminary design of an expansion to Skagit 911’s facilities.

Sexton, however, felt the grant request was premature. At this point, he said, it’s unknown when or if the dispatch center would want to expand on the current property.

He said he wants to avoid having to return the grant money, which he said the state hates.

“The commissioners should not be making decisions (by themselves) that affects the whole board,” he said after the meeting. “It’s just out of order.”

Skagit 911 Director Helen Rasmussen said the remodel will meet the needs of the dispatch center for about five years.

She said a discussion about expansion will have to happen before then.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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©2017 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.)

Visit the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.) at www.goskagit.com

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