E911 request tax increase for radio infrastructure

  • Fri Oct 18th, 2019 4:30pm
  • News

By Mike Lang

Grays Harbor News Group

Sales taxes across the county will increase by one-tenth of one percent if voters approve the only countywide measure on the November ballot.

The money would be used to improve the radio infrastructure for emergency services throughout the county, including installing new radio towers, that would cost around $8 million, according to an estimate.

Scott Turnbull, elections administrator for the county, said that there was not a “statement against” the measure that could be included in a Voters Pamphlet.

There is no end date for the increase of the sales tax.

In July, several people spoke out in favor of the measure to the Grays Harbor News Group.

“It’s imperative that we make improvements to the radio infrastructure and we have no other way to do it,” Brenda Cantu, executive director of the Grays Harbor Communications Center, said in July. “We have no other way to raise the funds. We certainly wouldn’t be going out to the community if we didn’t have to.”

The revenue raised would be used to improve the radio infrastructure for E-911 dispatching, which is run by the GHCC, Cantu said.

“Our first issue that we would be addressing is our radio system. Our current radio system is more than 25 years old, and we are struggling to maintain it and to provide a service that is reliable. That is our No. 1 concern,” Cantu said.

GHCC services 30 agencies across the county. The only two local fire, EMS or law enforcement agencies that operate in the county not serviced by GHCC are the Washington State Patrol and the Chehalis Tribal Police Department. Cantu said about one-third of its $3.5 million annual budget comes from the current sales tax. The remainder comes from a phone tax of about 70 cents per line and user agency contributions.

Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard said that this money would go to upgrade the “backbone” of the radio system.

“The big piece that we’ve been missing over the years, and we’ve been doing the best we can, is all the radio towers and microwaves and all the hardware that supports that system back to the dispatch center,” he said. “And that is truly what that one-tenth would help address. …

“It’s like your telephone. Everybody has a telephone in their house and nobody thinks about the backbone that makes that phone work. That is what this increase is all about.”

The GHCC is led by two governing boards. The Operations Board consists of law enforcement leaders in the county; the Administrative board is made up of one county commissioner and mayors of the majority of the cities in the county. Both bodies would have to approve upgrades to the system.