County’s 911 dispatch centers are poised for ‘historic’ merger

Combining SNOPAC and SNOCOM will obviate the need to transfer 50,000 calls per year.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s two regional 911 centers are set to merge.

The boards of SNOPAC in Everett and SNOCOM in Mountlake Terrace voted unanimously Thursday morning. The move is intended to save money and reduce the delays associated with transferring 911 calls.

The transfers between SNOPAC and SNOCOM — about 50,000 a year — result in 911 callers being put on hold. That happened last year after the mass shooting in Mukilteo.

The merger vote marked “a historic day for this county,” Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan said.

Thursday’s meeting was attended by police and fire leaders, mayors and City Council members from around the county. The merger talks have lasted about two years and at times stumbled on questions about the distribution of power among south county’s smallest cities.

Sheriff Ty Trenary on Thursday said he initially thought everyone would never come to an agreement. His deputies police the unincorporated areas between Everett and Lynnwood, where the transfers are most common.

“I have a ton of people I’m responsible for,” Trenary said. “They get delayed in calling 911 every day.”

Earlier critics who voted in support Thursday included Brier Mayor Bob Colinas and David Chan, a commissioner for South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue.

“Change is hard,” Lynnwood City Councilman George Hurst said.

County Executive Dave Somers also issued a statement of congratulations.

In addition to managing 911, SNOPAC and SNOCOM dispatch for about 50 police and fire departments. Those services cost about $20 million of public money annually. Consolidation is supposed to save at least $1 million a year.

Several folks on Thursday said the group has to hold themselves accountable to make that happen.

“Don’t let me down now,” said Colinas, the Brier mayor.

The new organization, Snohomish County 911, will be led by a board with 15 voting members. The merger date is set for Jan. 1, but combining all the resources will take longer, officials said. SNOCOM is expected to move into the SNOPAC building on Everett Mall Way sometime next year.

The old SNOCOM building is planned to become a back-up 911 center in case of disaster.

The dispatch centers agreed not to lay off employees as part of the merger, according to a press release. Staffing will be reduced through attrition.

“It’s pretty cool how north and south county can actually work together …” Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith said. “We better show better service and we better save money.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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