By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
Volcanos, floods, wind storms, snow storms and earthquakes have all placed Snohomish County well ahead of the game when it comes to presidentially-declared disasters. In fact, the county is nearly double the national average.
Sultan is working proactively in an effort to be ready when the next one hits.
The total of presidentially-declared disasters in Snohomish County so far has been 23, which is extremely high compared to the national average of 12. So Sultan is currently in the very early stages of seeking federal and state funding in an effort to plan and build a 6,000 square-foot, three-purpose structure which would serve as a Red Cross certified emergency evacuation center, an emergency command center, and during times of non-emergency, a community center.
“What we’re hoping to do is pull together funding from different sources to make this happen,” said Sultan City Administrator Ken Walker, who is spearheading the project.
The city is seeking funding from several different agencies including Homeland Security, FEMA, and Washington State, along with other disaster management resources. At this point, they are attempting to obtain $975,000.
“In the grand scheme of federal and state projects, less than a million is a small amount for what we are trying to accomplish,” stated Walker.
“We feel we can save lives, we can help protect property and we can take care of our residents,” he continued.
The emergency evacuation center would not only benefit Sultan residents. Walker explained that while Monroe has resources in place for disaster management, east county residents, specifically residents from Sultan, Gold Bar and Index, do not.
The multi-purpose structure would be utilized in three ways. During an emergency event, the building would function as a unified command center, serving as a place for emergency teams to converge and address the situation. The fire department, the police department and the sheriff’s office would be able to join forces and coordinate with each other in the case of an emergency.
The building would also function as a Red Cross certified emergency evacuation center, which would include 5,000 – 6,000 feet of cot space where people could be housed in case of an emergency event. If something catastrophic were to happen, the possibility exists that the bridges on U.S. 2 could be destroyed, and Sultan could be cut off from both Monroe and Everett.
“We are bridges away from being isolated,” stated Walker.
Having accessible resources in case access on U.S. 2 is temporarily inhibited is critical. The Red Cross would provide emergency relief care to residents until outside assistance became available.
Finally, the portion of the building designated for cot space could be re-purposed in times of non-emergency and utilized as a community convention center, which is something that Sultan does not currently have. This would allow for the building to be used at all times, and as Walker explained, it would be continuously beneficial to residents.
In its capacity as an events center, the facility could host many different expos relating to outdoor recreation including boat shows, gun shows and fishing shows. It could be used for private events, weddings, training events for local businesses and other community gatherings. It could also be used for educational purposes by Everett Community College and the Sultan School District.
The point is for the building to be self-sustaining, explained Walker. Making the space available for rental could pay for its operating costs.
“We think that having this resource at our disposal would be something that would be valuable to our citizens,” said Walker.
Being in the very preliminary stages of planning, the exact location has not been pinpointed yet. The city owns land which could potentially be used for the emergency center, and there is property available along U.S. 2 which could be negotiated for purchase.
Sultan is definitely adept at obtaining funding through grants. The city has received close to $12 million dollars in grant money in the last nine years, which is an average of $1.3 million per year. Walker explained that seeking these funds is a process at which they are both diligent and resourceful.
“We go to Olympia, we apply, we ask, and we constantly meet with the state agencies and state officials,” he explained.
In a recent Sultan City newsletter, Mayor Carolyn Eslick commented on her city’s success at obtaining grants. “This is a perfect example of how the City of Sultan’s elected officials and administrative staff have continued to be astute of the city’s capital needs and gone after the solution,” she stated.
In 2012, Sultan received over two million dollars in grant money.