Jefferson 9-1-1 services to go independent, lose county oversight
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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At that time, JeffCom911 Communications will manage and fund itself instead of being a county department.
“This will make everything more efficient,” said JeffCom911 Director Janet Silvus.
“The board will have more control over what we do, and all the information we need will be accessible to us, and we will be better able to respond.”
Silvus said people who call 9-1-1 in an emergency will not see any difference when the agency becomes independent.
“JeffCom was never meant to be a county agency; most emergency service agencies are standalone,” said East Jefferson Fire-Rescue Chief Gordon Pomeroy.
“Once it is independent, the users will have more say about what goes on in the agency, and it will be able to get what it needs immediately without having to go through a lot of bureaucracy.”
On Monday, the three county commissioners approved a measure that created two new funds for JeffCom911, for general and capital purposes.
The funds — which come mainly from a 2006 property tax levy and the agencies that respond from JeffCom911 calls — still will be administered by County Treasurer Judi Morris, but JeffCom911 will not need commissioners’ approval for spending them.
JeffCom911 was created in June 2002 as an independent agency that relieved the county Sheriff’s Office of responsibility for emergency services.
Sheriff Tony Hernandez said making JeffCom911 independent of his department was necessary because it prevented a dilution of resources.
Currently, JeffCom911 employs 20 people and has a
$1.8 million annual budget, Hernandez said.
Granting independence from the county will allow JeffCom911 to find other funding sources, he said.
“There are a lot of new revenue streams we can explore, such as leasing out our towers to wireless carriers,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez serves on the JeffCom911 board as a representative of law enforcement.
Other members of the board are County Commissioner John Austin, Port Townsend City Councilwoman Deborah Stinson, Brinnon Fire Commissioner Ron Garrison and Gardiner Fire Chief Pat Nicholson.
“With this board, all the stakeholders have a say in what’s going on within the agency,” Hernandez said.
“The original intent of making JeffCom independent is to get input from the whole community, and it’s good that this has finally come to fruition.
“Previously the management of JeffCom has come through the county’s general fund. This new system will decrease some of the burden on the county.”
Austin said he didn’t think spinning off JeffCom911 was a good idea.
“The county is responsible for 50 percent of the calls that come into JeffCom, and with that volume, it makes sense for it to remain as a county agency,” Austin said.
“But since its creation, the intent was always to make JeffCom independent.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 04. 2012 5:42PM