Emergency radio levy on King County ballot

Voters throughout the Enumclaw area will help decide a property tax levy on the April 28 special election ballot seeking funds to replace the county’s emergency radio system. Members of the King County Council approved the ordinance 8-1 to place the levy on the ballot, with only Councilman Pete von Reichbauer voting against the measure.

Voters throughout the Enumclaw area will help decide a property tax levy on the April 28 special election ballot seeking funds to replace the county’s emergency radio system.

Members of the King County Council approved the ordinance 8-1 to place the levy on the ballot, with only Councilman Pete von Reichbauer voting against the measure.

According to Councilman Joe McDermott, the sponsor of the ordinance, the levy  – which will be decided by all county voters – will replace county’s emergency radio system. McDermont said at the March 2 council meeting the levy would generate $273 million.

According to county staff, the vendor support of the radio system will end in 2018, which is used by police and fire.

David Mendel, project manager with King County Radio Communications, said after 2018 the vendor “level of support” for the radio system will end and the risk of catastrophic failure of the system increases.

According to a county release, the current system has been in place for about 20 years. It consists of 26 transmitter sites and multiple interconnecting microwave and fiber systems supporting more than 100 agencies and about 16,000 radio users, each with a portable radio handset and/or installed mobile radio in a vehicle. The system was designed to serve a smaller population over a smaller area when it went online. If approved, the new system would provide improved coverage within the existing service area.

Von Reichbauer expressed concerns that some fire districts’ budgets will be affected by the levy and were not included in the earlier discussions about replacing the system.

“The lack of communication in the executive’s office (Dow Constantine) is disappointing,” von Reichbauer said.

Councilwoman Jane Hague said she would vote for the ordinance but noted she had difficulty getting information from the executive’s office and was, “less than enthusiastic about the process leading up to the council discussion.”

Hague said she was also concerned about the short time available before the measure will go to the voters.

McDermott said the levy is an effort to make sure a replacement is in place before 2018 when the risk increases for a system failure.

A release from the council stated the levy lid lift rate would be .07 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Based on the 2015 median home value in King County, the cost to the median homeowner would be $26.46 per year.

The emergency radio system is used to dispatch police, fire, emergency medical personnel and allow responders to communicate with each other at those incidents. The system is owned in equal shares by King County, the city of Seattle, Valley Communications Center and the East Side Public Safety Communications Agency.

 

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