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CenCom might ask voters to fund a new home

"The Kitsap County Central Communications (CenCom) policy board could ask voters to approve an estimated $8.5 million for construction of a new, seismically fit emergency dispatch facility in west Bremerton.Property owners could be asked to pay an additional 14 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value to fund the new headquarters, which would be part of the Kitsap County Emergency Services Readiness Center. A ballot measure to approve the tax increase could go before voters in November.The board recently commissioned a $38,000 architectural design study, to be performed by Bremerton's Rice-Fergus Architects. The study is expected to be completed in about two months.The whole purpose is to determine what the costs are going to be and what the building requirements are, CenCom Director Ron McAffee said. We can take that information back to the CenCom policy board, which includes the county commissioners, to make a decision about whether to ask citizens for the tax levy.If the study indicates constructing a new emergency headquarters is feasible, the policy board could ask the commissioners to place the levy measure on the November ballot.The Rice-Fergus study, said McAffee, is a step in a process CenCom embarked on more than five years ago to secure newer, more stable digs.CenCom has been housed in a converted Warren Avenue Bridge tollbooth since 1975. The building sustained several new cracks and suffered damage to steel doors in the 6.8-magnitude Nisqually earthquake that hit the region Feb. 28.Engineers later determined the structure was safe enough to occupy for the time being, but it could have been a different story if the earthquake's epicenter had been 15 miles underground rather than 30 miles, McAfee said.After the temblor, CenCom officials realized something had to be done quickly to relocate. CenCom board members asked McAffee to provide them with a cost estimate and design for the proposed new headquarters, which could be located on a 3.5-acre parcel in west Bremerton, near the auto center complex.In 1996, voters said no to an $18.5 million bond levy measure for a new headquarters, 800-megahertz trunked radio system and mobile computer terminal systems for law enforcement officers.The message from property owners at that time was that everyone uses 911, not property owners, said McAffee. So we went back to the drawing board to come up with another plan. Rather than purchase and install a new, state-of-the-art radio system, CenCom borrowed $6.3 million against existing 911 telephone taxes. Those funds also helped install the backbone to a mobile computer terminal system.CenCom officials also lobbied the state Legislature for the authority to use sales taxes to fund a new headquarters. But for the fifth year in a row the request for a local options sales tax died in committee, McAfee said.Now CenCom officials are looking ahead toward the November ballot. "

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