South Sound Military & Communities Partnership continues its mission

By Gail Wood on December 23, 2013

Representatives from 14 South Sound county and city organizations met Friday to sign the Memorandum of Agreement, agreeing to increase their financial support to the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership.

With federal government support shifting from the SSMCP's general fund to focus more on specific projects, the city and private organizations from Pierce and Thurston counties agreed to kick in more money.

Since SSMCP's inception in May 2011, its support has been predominately from federal funds - 90 percent federal and 10 percent local.

"The local partners have agreed to take on the bulk of funding, the sort of the day-to-day costs of the partnership," said Mary Huff, SSMCP's program coordinator. "There will still be federal funds coming, but the local partners agreed to take on a bigger role to make sure the partnership continues to exist."

Funding was one of the main changes in the new agreement they signed Friday at the American Lake Conference Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

However, the content and objective of the MOA didn't change. Its goal remains to give a single point of contact for military-related activities that impact the region. By putting the five cities, two counties and seven other South Sound agencies into one collaborative association, the partnership combines into one common voice in dealing with JBLM.

Besides the commitment to additional funding, the signed MOA adds another level of management. With Lakewood, Lacey and Pierce County kicking in a substantially higher amount of money than the rest of the group, they'll now act as the executive leadership team and provide more frequent guidance and operational assistance to SSMCP.

The steering committee, which is primarily the appointed officials from the cities and counties involved, will now work in accordance with the executive leadership team's suggestions.

"We have now added another layer above the steering committee, which we are calling the executive leadership team," Huff said.

The JBLM will still be at the steering committee level, but they will also serve as an advisor.           

Under the new agreement here are the 14 groups involved with SSMCP: JBLM, the city of Lakewood, the city of Lacey, the city of Tacoma, the city of DuPont, the city of Yelm, Pierce County, Thurston County, the Washington State Department of Transportation, Camp Murray, Nisqually Indian Tribe, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Thurston Regional Planning Council and the United Way of Pierce County

New additions to the partnership are Yelm and the Nisqually tribe.

The SSMCP was formed three and a half years ago as a result of the 2010 JBLM growth coordination plan. One of the 41 strategies outlined in the plan centers on a need to establish a committed, ongoing partnership in the region to come together and talk about issues and concerns involving JBLM.

Prior to SSMCP, cities, counties and local organizations dealt with JBLM separately.

"There were forums outside of the military for the local jurisdictions to get together," Huff said. "But there wasn't really any forum for the local jurisdictions and JBLM."

The SSMCP's success has been its ability to leverage the partners as one unified voice when going to seek federal funding.

"One of the things we're trying to do is connect Thurston Country resources with Pierce Country resources to work in concert," Huff said.