Tax provides 911 for system

If you have ever had to dial 911, chances are you don’t forget it!

I remember the time I called 911 more than eight years ago like it was yesterday. One morning my infant son, Drew, started to choke. Our concern turned to panic when our efforts to clear his airway failed and he began to turn blue.

As new parents, my wife and I were absolutely terrified. Fortunately, East Pierce County Fire and Rescue arrived within minutes and took over. As Drew recovered and I had time to reflect, I felt extremely blessed to live in these modern times where technology and well-trained professionals are available to save lives and provide public safety.

In the next few months, a proposal will be brought before the Pierce County Council that, if passed, would put a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot requesting approval for a 0.1 percent sales tax increase. The new tax would go toward creating South Sound 911 which would consolidate three existing 911 call centers in Pierce County and build two additional centers; upgrade police and fire radio systems; and build a data network to enhance the ability to receive maps and other data in the field.

Proponents say it is a great idea that puts all agencies on the same system in case of a catastrophic disaster or major police incident. More importantly, it may save lives. And finally, it would make Pierce County a leader in 911 operations, as no one else on the West Coast has attempted to create such a system.

It is important to note that regardless of whether this plan is accepted, it does not change the fact that Pierce County is mandated by the federal government to upgrade their radio systems by 2013, which will cost $20 million.

That begs the question: if the federal mandate is $20 million, why is Pierce County asking us to pay for a system that far exceeds that amount? Is this the equivalent of going to the car dealer to buy a reliable but inexpensive sedan, and driving away with a prototype Ferrari that has never been road tested?

Another concern is that existing 911 call centers like those in Bonney Lake and Puyallup have already invested millions of taxpayer dollars in systems that work well, so why change it?

Finally, are cash-strapped citizens willing to pay for a state-of-the-art system, or are they content with fulfilling the federal mandate and keeping the current 911 service they receive?

Over the next several weeks, my colleagues and I will be debating this proposal and asking all the pertinent questions necessary to make an informed decision when it comes before the council for a vote. As always, I value your opinions and encourage you to contact me regarding your thoughts on this issue and others. I can be reached at my office at 253-798-3635 or by email, droach@co.pierce.wa.us I look forward to hearing from you.

Dan Roach is the Pierce County Council representative from District 1. The district includes Sumner, Bonney Lake and Buckley.


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