The Centralia and Chehalis City council both voted this week to jointly fund a 911 feasibility study along with Lewis County and the Riverside Fire Authority — with each entity paying $24,230.50 to assess the possibility of consolidating the Lewis County 911 Dispatch services with TCOMM — the 911 service provider in Thurston County.
The feasibility study, costing a total of $96,922, will begin on July 7 and is expected to last through the end of the year.
“The city has been working diligently over the course of the last several years to address the concerns over 911 — some issues with the technology as well as some performance concerns and through that there has been a development of a county-wide agreement for 911 services,” said Chehalis City Manager Jill Anderson.
The Chehalis City Council approved the jointly funded feasibility study during their Monday afternoon meeting and Centralia City Council approved it the following evening.
“Tonight is a really key decision point in terms of moving forward with a feasibility study to assess whether or not Lewis County could be better served by consolidating with TCOMM,” said Anderson.
DELTAWRX is the firm that was selected to conduct the feasibility study.
“A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been prepared to create the funding partnership between the City of Chehalis, City of Centralia, Riverside Fire Authority (RFA) and Lewis County to share the cost of the study equally, as the largest users of the Lewis County 911 system,” stated the City of Chehalis’ Council meeting agenda report.
There have been concerns with Lewis County’s 911 service for about three years including those about upgrading the infrastructure. In May of 2019 Steve Mansfield, the county’s former emergency management director, said it could cost $4 million to complete the necessary communications maintenance and upgrades.
Around this time last year, Lewis County sent a letter to the TCOMM Administration Board asking for formal permission to study the feasibility of consolidating the Lewis County 911 Dispatch services with TCOMM.
In 2018 the City of Centralia, as a part of exploring the alternative possibilities of providing 911 services, conducted a study to explore the option of constructing a 911 center separate from the county, Centralia City Manager Rob Hill explained during the council meeting. It did not end up being a feasible option for Centralia due to the cost and commitment.
“We met with (TCOMM), they are widely recognized as a superior provider of that service,” said Hill. “Everyone is just trying very hard to provide the best possible service. We all know this is a really critical service that everyone needs. The county has been really great to work with us on this in exploring this option.”
Hill said that everyone has had a voice in moving to conduct the feasibility study including the smaller fire districts and law enforcement departments in the county.
“The funds are not in the current budget, this would require a future budget amendment. We will try to identify funds but I’m not going to sugar coat this — with our revenues being down because of COVID-19 we’re probably not sitting on a surplus this year but this very much needs to be done and we are highly committed to seeing it through,” said Hill.