Lewis County Approves Interlocal Agreement for 911 Center

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

The Board of Lewis County Commissioners on Monday approved an interlocal agreement between the county and more than two dozen emergency service providers that rely on the 911 Communications Center — the product of eight months worth of work to update the document.

“Hopefully many of the issues and the things we’ve seen affect the operation in the past, we’ll be able to put many of those to rest … as a group, a consolidated group to provide the very best communications services to our first responders,” said Steve Mansfield, county director of emergency services. 

Now the interlocal agreement will go out to the 26 user agencies for signatures.

Mansfield has been working to update the document since he took over management of the 911 Communications Center along with the Department of Emergency Management in March 2017.

The interlocal agreement will be in effect through December 2019. It includes the 911 center’s scope of services, defines authorities, identifies partner agencies and outlines operations, administrative duties, financial shares and the budget process. 

“I think more importantly it lays the groundwork for the development of the strategic plan and addresses the communications, infrastructure and monetary issues into the future,” Mansfield said Monday.

The interlocal agreement also sets the stage for the next year’s worth of work — figuring out how the county and user agencies will equitably finance maintenance of 911 infrastructure, including radio repeater sites spread throughout the county, and will formally establish an advisory committee made up of 911 user agencies.

“We all realize now we’re going to have to cross this bridge and we’re going to have to cross it together,” Mansfield said.

No representatives from user agencies spoke about the agreement at the meeting Monday.

Mansfield and the user agencies began renegotiating the terms of the interlocal agreement after a turbulent period at the 911 center involving complaints from fire and police agencies, a no-confidence vote in manager Dave Anderson from dispatchers that was disregarded by county leadership, a state Department of Labor and Industries investigation into working conditions in the center and, most recently, a lawsuit accusing the 911 center and county staff of giving out a dispatcher’s personal information to a man accused of abusing her.

When Mansfield took the center under his management in March 2017, he vowed to “reset” the struggling county department and work cooperatively with user agencies. 

“During the last few years, this critical partnership has been challenged,” Mansfield wrote in a summary included in the agreement. “The efficiency, effectiveness and safety of the operations/service has been brought into question. The first responder community has had serious concerns about how to provide input into the process and how to continue to pay for the escalating costs/fees.”

He negotiated the revamped interlocal agreement with Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta and Centralia Police Chief Carl Nielsen acting as representatives of fire and law enforcement agencies. 

“I can’t put a value on one over the other of the things we talked about here,” Mansfield told The Chronicle. “We worked for over eight months on this thing and really discussed and hashed out a lot of things that were important to us as individual entities and to our community as a whole.”

The cities of Chehalis and Centralia and the Riverside Fire Authority have banded together to fund a feasibility study into creating their own 911 center. The study is still ongoing. 

Lewis County Commissioners Edna Fund and Gary Stamper voted to approve the interlocal agreement at the commission’s regular meeting Monday. Commissioner Bobby Jackson was absent.