CenCom levy likely on November ballotServices are stuck in aging former tollbooth.

"A $10.5 million request for a new 911 center and emergency management facility in west Bremerton is close to the November ballot.Kitsap County Commissioners expect to vote on Monday in favor of sending the county's Central Communication request to Kitsap residents this fall.Commissioners say the February earthquake that shook the Puget Sound region served as a wakeup call to all those who depend on 911 services in Kitsap.Although walls at the CenCom's 911 facility cracked in various places, it was deemed habitable by local inspectors and engineers. Still, the temblor instilled a sense of urgency among county officials to fix the aging building.We were holding our breath during the earthquake, County Commissioner Jan Angel said. CenCom has needed a new building for years and years and we tried to get them one before. Time has run out.CenCom is housed in an add-on and remodel to the old Warren Avenue Bridge toll booth. When the service started at that location in 1976, local officials expected the facility to last about 10 years.The center handles emergency dispatch for all local agencies, including fire and police on Bainbridge Island.If something were to happen to that building or the equipment, it would throw our entire law enforcement process in this county into a quandary, Angel said.If the levy is approved, county property owners would pay 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value over the next five years. The $10.5 million would construct a seismically stable, 18,800-square-foot buildng in West Bremerton, for CenCom and the county's department of Emergency Management. Construction would be completed in 2003. The needThis is 911, what are you reporting? asks Sue Kriegel. Her fingers tap across a keyboard, typing in key information to help emergency response officials know what they're getting into.I want to report an assault, says a Bremerton woman. My fiance is outside, locked out of the house. I need an officer here.Kriegel, headphone and speaker in place, asks the woman for as much information as she can supply.Where are you? What is your fiance's name? Have you both been drinking? she asks, typing each response into a computer report. A map pops up on Kriegel's computer screen, indicating the site at which the alleged assault is, at that moment, taking place. OK. Stay inside and keep yourself safe and an officer will be there soon.Pressing the Enter button, Kriegel transmits the woman's report to the appropriate law enforcement dispatcher working the 911 floor. In turn, that dispatcher submits the report - in this case - to a police officer patrolling that area. Depending on the situation, law enforcement officers, firefighters or both could be called to the scene. A law enforcement officer arrives on the scene minutes after the original 911 call comes through.CenCom Director Ron McAffee calls his crew on the 911 floor the heart of emergency response in Kitsap County. In a certain sense, that's true, since they serve as an information conduit between Kitsap residents in need and the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office, police forces patrolling the county's four cities, the fire districts and the tribes.CenCom call receivers and dispatchers handled 232,000 calls at the facility throughout all of last year, a number that has increased by 380 percent since Cencom first set up there in 1976.While the need for a 911 service in Kitsap has grown astronomically, CenCom's facility has atrophied. It's a bit challenging to move about the dispatch floor. Some aisles are so narrow that passing employees squeeze by one another, trying not to catch purse straps or bump into a nearby chair or console.A decade ago, as the building settled, telltale cracks formed on the eastern side of the building. Although narrow windows adorn the top of that same wall, the cracks allowed call receivers working the graveyard shift to see the sun rise up the wall every morning.The building's storage units are already stuffed to the rafters, so CenCom brought in a trailer that is parked out back, near the radio tower. Inside, some employees work at a small station, and the rest of the space is used to store computer and radio equipment.Aside from all that, the February earthquake rattled the building to the point where metal doors don't close anymore.Shortly after the quake, Emergency Management officials flooded the 911 offices, operating phone lines and other communication devices in an already clogged- up hallway. The emergency dispatch center, filled with training equipment, had to be cleaned out before it was put into full use.They need help, Bainbridge Fire Chief Jim Walkowski said. It's small, it's outlived it's purpose. "

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