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911: Explain why new facilities are needed

Letter by Scott R. Bennett, Puyallup on June 27, 2011 at 11:24 am with 25 Comments »
June 27, 2011 2:12 pm

Pierce County leaders are proposing to increase the sales tax to pay for an upgraded countywide 911 dispatch agency. The new revenue would pay for two new facilities, upgraded communication hardware and a new data network. The purpose is to allow police and firefighters to more easily talk to each other.

Before putting such a proposal before the voters, those leaders need to finish the job. Explain to the voters why, with dispatch centers already operating in the county, two completely new facilities are required.

Will this project equitably benefit the entire county and its communities, and if not, why not? Are the new systems and hardware proven and cost-effective? This is not being done anywhere else on the West Coast. Is it truly forward thinking, or will it cause more problems than it solves? Exactly how much will this cost?

The improvements constitute a one-time expenditure. Why is a permanent tax increase rather than a temporary increase in revenues that would provide those funds the only option being presented?

It’s understandable that Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy is excited about the prospect of an open-ended blank check. She needs to understand that the voters are not her bank, but her employer.

Our leaders need to get us the best “bang for the buck.” When they establish credibility with the voter, to paraphrase the song, they may not get what they want, but they most likely would get what they need.

Leave a comment Comments → 25
  1. LarryFine says:

    Look up NIMS, FEMA, and Homeland Security. The answer is with-in… ;)

    As far as Funding … that’s a whole other issue.

  2. Puyallup already has 800MHZ and the citizens have already paid for it. Now the county wants to charge them again for the same service they already have.

    Whoa pardner!

    Hee haw!

  3. I annotated before! When will all these “I have a great need for your dollars! I have a great idea! I only want a small sales tax increase!” stop. We heard from Pierce Transit. We heard from United Way! Now we hear another great idea. No plan is proposed. No showing of need. And, why wasn’t this raised when Washington, DC was shoveling out money to first responders to fight terrorism? Wasn’t this communication problem shown at the falling of the World Trade Center? Weren’t the police and fire department struggling with bad communication? Why has it taken a decade for Pierce County to raise the issue? Isn’t the Morse Code working between DC and Pierce County?

  4. harleyrider1 says:

    Good letter Scott.

  5. firemannotfirefighter says:

    There are a number of reasons why newer dispatch centers are needed. One may be the fact that due to new technology a new facility may be cheaper than renovating the older facility. The old centers may not be earthquake ready. With the proliferation of VOIP and cell phones, the dispatchers need to update their center.

    Many counties don’t have back-up centers (what happens if one is taken out during a earthquake or other disaster?). In order to be compliant and receive federal funds for emergency services and disaster preparedness counties and departments need to meet certain criteria and standards. Allot of these standards are a result of 9/11. The NY emergency operations center and the back-up were destroyed. We also learned after natural disasters like Katrina, that having updated emergency operations centers are few and far between

    I understand the need for maintaining an open dialogue about tax payer money and I agree that the Pierce County Exec needs to explain FULLY why it is needed.

  6. menopaws says:

    Our 911 system is the worst in the entire United States….the TNT did stories about it last year, as did the Tacoma Weekly……No more money until there are some basic changes (firings) at the top……..poor performance does not justify another tax increase………And, I don’t mind paying taxes—-but not until I see an improvement in their response time and level of professionalism. I say this as someone who actually called 911 on November night when someone was trying to kick my front door in………It rang and rang…called again, rang and rang…..No one picked up the phone……I am not the only person who has dealt with this…….Never count on them….always have the back-up fire and police numbers handy………No more money until basic service improves!!!!!

  7. theglovesRoff says:

    It looks like you survived the ordeal last November without 911. So tell us how you took care of the offender trying to kick in your door.

  8. menopaws says:

    MY dog came roaring out of the back of the house barking and playing mad dog and the intruder took off……..but, 911 did NOT pick up and when I followed through—someone in Emergency Management called me back and told me who to call, what to do and how they would deny, deny , deny……….which is exactly what happened……He also told me that it has happened with frequency and they always claim it was the phone lines, etc………I now post the fire and police non-emergency numbers in my kitchen……….Incompetence and the fact that our system is the worst in the entire United States makes me wonder why people still have jobs………make a change in management and I might back the tax……..but, giving more money to the same idiots—-I don’t think so…….and I will be calling and putting my two cents in on this one……

  9. LarryFine says:

    What are the back up numbers ?
    .
    One reason (perhaps) LESA (911) sometimes takes too long to answer is because of the people who call for any and everything… like when there’s an earthquake and hoards of idiots call … “was there an earthquake” ?

  10. Copper2Steel says:

    And LESA is not the only 911 game in town.

  11. firemannotfirefighter says:

    If nobody picked up your 911 call, maybe that is one of the reasons why they need a new system??? It isn’t like the 911 dispatchers sees your address on the caller ID and says “Oh just let it ring, he doesn’t want us to build another building”, Maybe, if you say that it just rang and never picked up (Usually picks up to some type of system that keeps you on hold, but recognizes your address) then the actual system and not the workers needs to be overhauled?

  12. Really911 says:

    LarryFine, that is no excuse. Every 911 center gets calls that should not come in on 911 lines, and they don’t have the pitiful stats that LESA has. Of course LESA will tell you that they have fixed their problems and now meet the national call receiving stats. Not True. All 911 centers operate at minimum staffing or below. I have never seen a 911 center that didn’t have vacancies on their rosters.
    As for firemannotfirefighter, We are not talking about “many counties” we are talking about Pierce County, and they have a fairly new EOC, and the Comm Center they are in is not that old. This has nothing to do with back up centers.
    The point is well taken that Pierce County needs to take their case to the public and fully inform them on what there plan is and why it is needed, and why they want a Sales Tax increase that is not temporary but is permanent. And while they are at it, they need to show what they are doing with the $1,011,948.00 that they get in 2011 from the E911 funds. Pierce County E911 administration also needs to justify why some secondary PSAPS get 4 and 5 times as much of the E911 funds as primary PSAPS of equal size every year. This has been going on for years and no one makes them justify this. Of course the public is not aware of such things.

    Scott I liked your letter, seems you are well informed enough to ask the hard questions.

  13. LarryFine says:

    How so Copper2 ?
    .
    p.s. I’m not defending LESA, just pointing out that 911 has become quite the baby sitter over the last few years. We have a society of nearly 50% that rely on government for most of their basic needs. This is just one symptom…
    .
    So how about those “back up numbers” menopaws ?

  14. Copper2Steel says:

    LESA is not the only 911 center in Pierce County. That’s all. Puyallup has their own, for instance. There are others, I believe.

  15. theglovesRoff says:

    I am relieved that nothing serious happened to you during your incident menopause. Thankfully, I have never had the need to call 911, and I hope it stays that way.

  16. LarryFine says:

    Not 4 long….

  17. Really911 says:

    It is correct that LESA is not the only 911 center, Puyallup (City Comm) is a primary PSAP and dispatchers for Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Sumner police departments, Fife dispatches for the City of Fife, Eatonville, Normandy Park and Milton. Buckley dispatches for the City of Buckley, Orting and a few small fire districts in eastern Pierce County.

    What the public is not being told is that in the interlocal agreement is between LESA, City of Tacoma Fire Dept, and West Pierce Fire and Rescue, and they will be known as South Sound 911. The ultimate plan is to take over all those smaller Dispatch centers and force them into the South Sound 911. The iterlocal agreement has no provision for protecting those jobs. The agreement does specify the intent to continue the employment of the existing staff at LESA, Tacoma Fire and West Pierce Fire and Rescue. The agreement also specifically indicates that the board members will be from LESA, Tacoma Fire and West Pierce Fire and Rescue. So this means that the services currently provided by LESA will be the services provided in all the small cities listed above. So, no more responses in these cities to things like non injury accidents, child custody issues, civil standbys and other service type calls, Which are currently provided in Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Sumner (I don’t know about the other small cities listed above, which of these services they currently provide). If all this happens LESA will be the only game in town. The interlocal agreement has no provision to improve services. It DOES have provisions for taking taxpayer monies and using those funds for “equipping and remodeling, repairing, reequipping etc”. The public should be making LESA account for $1,011,948.00 that they already get from E911 before giving them an increase in sales tax. And the public should make E911 account for how these funds are dispursed, and publish what the funds are SUPPOSED to be used for, and what they have really been used for. There is also over $500,000. between the 2 Fire dispatch centers to be accounted for. So between them it is over 1.5 million dollars they already get.
    They will try to tell you that they are under a federal mandate to do these improvements. The federal mandates are for Radios only, Which they should have been on board with The City of Tacoma a long time ago and could have used federal grants. The City of Puyallup has done these upgrades without taxing their citizens.

  18. ImAKoala says:

    Really911 said:

    “So this means that the services currently provided by LESA will be the services provided in all the small cities listed above. So, no more responses in these cities to things like non injury accidents, child custody issues, civil standbys and other service type calls, Which are currently provided in Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Sumner (I don’t know about the other small cities listed above, which of these services they currently provide). If all this happens LESA will be the only game in town.”

    Just wanted to clairfy something here. LESA provides 911 and police dispatch services for Tacoma, Pierce County, UP, Lakewood, Roy, Gig Harbor, Edgewood, Ruston, Fircrest, Dupont, and Steilacoom. LESA does not decide how the police officers respond to non injury accidents, child custody issues, civil standbys and other service type calls, as Really911 claims. Each police department makes their own policy as to what types of calls they will and will not repsond to.

    So if SouthSound 911 is created and Puyallup, Bonney Lake, and Sumner are absorbed into that service area, the citizens would still be getting the same service from their police department that they always did. Unless, of course, that police department changed its policy. LESA has no part in that decision.

    Also, citizens living in some of the cities LESA covers DO recieve those types of services. The cities I can think of off hand that do are UP, Steilacoom, Ruston, Fircrest and Dupont. They recieve the ‘service type’ calls because their police departments have policies that require officers to repsond to these requests. Again, LESA only answeres the phones and sends the officers, according to the instructions given to them by each individual department.

    Seems that Really911 is really against the formation of the SouthSound911, and that is fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, etc…but he/she is trying to pass faulty information off as fact.

  19. Copper2Steel says:

    That clears up a lot, ImAKoala, thanks!

    I have a hard time believing that those that don’t fall under the agreement will be “absorbed” or otherwise taken over. I’d think that those other 911 centers would have to agree to be a part of the larger South Sound 911 entity… Which then makes me wonder: Why only combine three agencies if there are so many others?

  20. ImAKoala says:

    Unfortunately, Copper2Steel, that is not always the case. Recently, Sumner 911 dispatch was disbanded and their 911 calls are now handled by CityComm (Puyallup). I’m sure Sumner (and its employees) would have preferred to keep those jobs local, but they were victims of the economy, and the agencies being pushed to make more out of less.

  21. ImAKoala says:

    Really911 says:
    June 29, 2011 at 11:06 am
    “LarryFine, that is no excuse. Every 911 center gets calls that should not come in on 911 lines, and they don’t have the pitiful stats that LESA has. Of course LESA will tell you that they have fixed their problems and now meet the national call receiving stats. Not True. ”

    Really911, you need to do your research. LESA has been hitting the national standard for 10 months now. And they are doing it with 1995 staffing levels. This information is available on their website.

    http://www.lesa.net/news.shtml#story38

    You say every call center has to deal with understaffing and misuse of 911. That may be true, but not every call center is the busiest in the state or serves just under a million people. It would be pretty easy to gloat about stats if you only handled, say, Fife. Or Puyallup.

  22. Really911 says:

    ImAKoala, The Police Depts that you mention may be willing to respond to the calls mentioned above, But call receivers have to write calls for the dispatchers to ever get the opportunity to dispatch them. In theory you are correct, but reality is that the call receivers tell these callers that the police don’t respond to these types of calls. I have heard it for myself. And it is very confusing for call takers to have to remember which city does what.
    Copper2Steel, As for the police departments being absorbed or what ever they want to call it, And agencies being able to not agree to it. The proposed tax increase will be county wide. So even if those cities dont agree or opt out, their taxpayers will still have to pay the tax increase but get no benefit from it. If the tax increase was only for the geographical areas that agree, then fine. But it is a county wide. The federal mandate that is driving all this is for RADIO UPGRADES ONLY. It has nothing to do with building newer, bigger buildings. Pierce County did not get onboard early like Puyallup and other agencies did. Now their backs are against the wall to get upgrades done.
    I am not making things up, I am trying to be as accurate as possible. I have documentation and experience to support what I am saying. This is a very complicated subject that the general public has very little knowledge about radio upgrades, Primary PSAPS, Secondary PSAPS, existing E911 funding, where it goes, how it is spent vs how it is supposed to be spent, police depts contracting with other agencies, how many dispatch centers there are, how many employees they each have and what they do. We, that work in this industry have to agree on one thing, that we have not done a very good job of educating the public on 911.
    Read the interlocal agreement put out by Pierce County, and do some research. For those that are interested in the facts, There is a City Council meeting tonight in Puyallup and there should be a health discussion about this project as some of the players try to give the City Council the information they need to decide if they will be part of this project.

  23. Really911 says:

    ImAKoala says

    “You say every call center has to deal with understaffing and misuse of 911. That may be true, but not every call center is the busiest in the state or serves just under a million people. It would be pretty easy to gloat about stats if you only handled, say, Fife. Or Puyallup”

    It doesn’t matter that Puyallup or Fife are not the biggest in the state, (I am not sure LESA is either, I think King County is) they also don’t have the luxury of only having to do one thing or the other , call receive or dispatch. They do both, call receiving and dispatching. After hours they also do data entry or records work, which includes entering and clearing stolen vehicles, missing people, stolen articles etc, And all warrant entry 24/7. The 2 comm centers you name don’t just handle Fife or Puyallup, they both handle other police agencies and other services. And lets not forget they both are Primary PSAPS, So they handle a lot more calls than just their own, as does LESA.

    It comes down to call volume/workload and number of staffing. Puyallup too worked with the same staffing from 1989 until 2 years ago, Puyallup has always met national standards, often not even being able to take 15 min breaks much less a 30 min lunch break. The purpose was not to “gloat” , however, I think you would agree, we should all be proud of what we do for a living. The stats I was speaking about were from an independant study, not Puyallup’s numbers or LESA number. There is no doubt that LESA and every other comm center is understaffed. But how will a bigger building and taking on more work solve this ? And why try to absorb or take over the smaller centers that are already doing an excellent job. The purpose is to get the money from the taxpayers to meet the federal mandate. But the mandate is for RADIO UPGRADES only. Not big new buildings.

  24. CuriousAbout911 says:

    Really911 –
    You continue to provide a significant number of facts yet most of these have no citation as to where you get your information or numbers. You seem to obviously have some intimate knowledge of the proposed plan, but I am curious what your credentials are. Are you employed by 9-1-1? Are you an employee of Puyallup? In the interests of full disclosure I believe it’s important that you cite your sources and let us know who you are. It would help define your intent and agenda and help put your information in perspective.

    I am concerned because I have seen others question your facts and your responses don’t always refute these.

    For example: In another forum you correct another poster and state that the Puyallup radio system is completely independant of the rest of the Pierce County radio system. I’ve checked my facts and have been told by people I trust that actually work in the business that, indeed, Puyallup’s system is part of the Pierce County radio system and dependant on Pierce County for radio service. If Puyallup decided to independantly move away from Pierce County where do they plan on getting the funds for their own radio system?

    You also mention that secondary PSAPs in Pierce County receive more money than the Primary PSAP in Puyallup yet you fail to mention the conditions that create this disparity. I believe once the conditions are brought to light and researched it will be found that they make sense. I don’t believe anyone has been hiding anything. Have you made an attempt to ask for an answer? Who did you ask? If “they” told you they couldn’t answer your question did they say why? I see some things in your argument that make sense, however, most of your contentions are not backed up with solid facts or research and you are wrong about enough things that I find your arguments weak.

    I know people who work for the Puyallup dispatch center and they are proud of the work that they do, but they have told me the physical plant needs a lot of work and that all is not so rosy in South Hill.

  25. Really911 says:

    CuriousAbout911,

    I apologize for not responding to your posting earlier, I have not looked at this particular article for quite some time..as for your questions about who I am. Yes I am a Dispatcher for 16 years. I will not post where I work or what my name. Although, I notice that you don’t either, so not sure why you would expect me to. The numbers I posted in regards to the amount of funding that each PSAP gets are right from the contract and were given to me by my boss, which is in part why I won’t post my name. My previous 2 bosses and current boss attend the PSAP meetings and have tried to figure out how the funds are dispursed, they have asked, and have been told, “its the way it has always been done”. I am sincerely asking the question. How is it deternined. If you know, please share. You dont have to believe that anyone is hiding anything, you are probably not as suspicious as I am. My experience is that anytime you give a bunch of politicians control of your money, they will spend it and want more. Maybe you are more trusting than I.

    As for the radios, Puyallup is NOT part of Pierce County’s radio system…Puyallup has a leg off of Tacoma’s radio system. Puyallup is 800 MHZ, .Pierce County is not. 800 MHZ . Puyallup owns 7 of thier own towers and Pierce County needs 11 to accomplish the South Sound 911 project. I don’t know who your trusted sources are but they need to talk to the person at Puyallup that is responsible for the radios. I have asked again to make sure I have my facts right. And I do. So go to the source, the Director.

    Your statement about the Funds and the “conditions that create the disparity” again, if you know, please share. You know something that managers and directors have been asking for years.

    As for the dispatchers at Puyallup. Yes they are proud and rightfully so !!
    They have out grown their “physical plant” if you want to call it that…

    If you want the facts, come to the Puyallup City Council meeting on 8/16 maybe I’ll see ya there.

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