Tribe wants to terminate partnership

INDIANOLA — The Suquamish Tribe is tired of being delayed in its technology advancement efforts and simply wants to move on.

After working with Kitsap County Central Communications/911 (CenCom) for two years to try and construct a 300-foot radio communications tower near Indianola on tribal land, the tribe announced in a Nov. 3, 2004 letter to CenCom that it wants to break its interlocal agreement for the project.

“It’s just gotten to the point where the tribe needs to move forward with the project and the tribe has sent a letter to the county to terminate the partnership,” said Suquamish Tribal attorney Michelle Hansen.

Construction of the tower has been delayed due to a lawsuit brought against the county by a group of concerned residents, the North Kitsap Reasonable Environmental Controls for All People (NK-RECAP). The group filed in August 2004, claiming CenCom needs an Environmental Impact Statement for the site. The group also has several concerns about the tower, including potential environmental impacts and whether CenCom has correctly followed county codes and regulations for putting up a communications tower.

Construction was slated to start in October 2004, but because of the lawsuit, was halted until the issue can be settled.

“While the tribe appreciates the efforts of CenCom and Kitsap County on this project, unfortunately, this project has been repeatedly delayed and now there is no certainty when construction will be resumed,” the tribe stated in the letter.

Initially, the tribe was going to build a tower on tribal land for its own tribal police radio communications system and wireless computer education programs, Hansen said. However, the two parties came together in December 2002 as CenCom was looking to build a tower in the North End to enhance its own 911 system.

As for the tribe, it could still build a tower on that site since it is their land and it had planned to construct one all along, Hansen said.

“It is intending to move forward with the project and build the tower,” Hansen said, noting Tribal Council still needs to figure out if it will find another partner or go it alone.

The tribe partnered with CenCom in the first place because it was “a real win-win situation” for both groups, Hansen said.

“We thought it was great to have a partner to help out with costs and management in the long run,” she added. “It was a good partnership to begin with.”

As for CenCom, the lawsuit has been put on hold while the county and the tribe work out the details of the termination, said CenCom director Ron McAffee.

If the partnership is dissolved, the lawsuit could become mute as well, added Kitsap County deputy prosecuting attorney Philip Bacus.

So far, CenCom has spent $300,000 on the tower design, environmental studies and moving the tower from one location to another. It is unknown if the county will be able to recoup those costs.

For CenCom, the tower was going to improve radio communications for law enforcement and emergency personnel in the North End. Because of the topography of the land, there are many “dead spots” where two-way radios can’t communicate. But regardless of where a tower goes, McAffee still needs one in the North End.

“If we can’t take advantage of the 300-foot tower that was going to be built, then we need to look for land for two (180-foot tall) towers,” he said, adding, however, “I have no idea where I’m going to find the land and the money to pay for it.”

NK-RECAP member Fritz Greenlee said if the partnership ends but the tribe decided to build on the same site anyway, NK-RECAP would try and work with the tribe about the impacts of the tower to the neighboring residents.

“To the extent the tribe is willing,” Greenlee said. “We have tried to go to the tribe in the past and the tribe has not been willing to communicate with us.”

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