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CenCom among issues on Nov. 6 ballots

The Kitsap County Auditor’s Office mailed more than 84,000 absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 general election on Thursday, Oct. 18.

Those ballots include a $10.5 million countywide request for a new Central Communications and emergency management facility to be located at the Kitsap County Emergency Readiness Center in West Brem-erton.

“We’ve needed a new building for a long time,” said CenCom Dir-ector Ron McAffee, whose agency receives 911 calls and dispatches emergency services. “While calls for service have increased dramatically and the county’s population has increased over the last 25 years, the facility is still the same size and it’s overcrowded.”

Kitsap property owners would pay an additional 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for the next five years if a simple majority of voters approve the measure. The money would be used to build a seismically stable, 18,800-square-foot CenCom building.

Since 1977, the county’s emergency dispatch and response facilities have operated from a remodeled Warren Avenue Bridge toll booth. The building was designed to accommodate staff for 10 years.

McAffee and members of the CenCom policy board said a new building is necessary to accommodate growing demands for service in the county and ensure some seismic integrity.

The Feb. 28 Nisqually earthquake left several cracks at the existing CenCom facility. Steel doors at the building won’t close anymore.

“It could have been a different story if the earthquake’s epicenter had been 15 miles underground rather than 30 miles,” McAffee said.

The $10.5 million project, which could be completed in 2004, would include a $300,000 radio tower and 16 dispatch consoles, each of which cost about $70,000. The building itself is expected to cost about $4.1 million and equipment about $2.9 million. The remaining $1 million would cover design, engineering, construction management and permitting.

CenCom wouldn’t have to buy property at the readiness center. The site is owned by the National Guard Armory.

CenCom would join the Joint Management Group, which consists of local fire districts, the U.S. Navy and Olympic College. A one-time membership fee to the group would cover use of the site, and CenCom would pay a $1 a year lease to the National Guard.

“In that sense, it’s a win-win situation for us,” McAffee said.

CenCom and its dispatchers have received more phone calls in the last few weeks from residents concerned about suspicious packages or mysterious envelopes.

“We needed a new building long before the Sept. 11 attacks,” said McAffee. “Although the new facility would be equipped to deal with this kind of thing.”

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