King County Council sends measure to fund replacement of regional emergency radio system to the ballot

The Metropolitan King County Council approved sending to the voters in April a nine-year property tax levy lid lift proposal to raise revenue needed to replace the County’s aging emergency radio system.

  • Monday, March 2, 2015 7:29pm
  • News

The following is a release from King County:

The Metropolitan King County Council approved sending to the voters in April a nine-year property tax levy lid lift proposal to raise revenue needed to replace the County’s aging emergency radio system.

“Our emergency radio system needs replacement and it’s important for voters to weigh in on new equipment for first responders,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips.

“This proposed ‘new generation’ public safety communications system will be available to our city, district and county first responders,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “I ask the voters to carefully consider this replacement of our current radio system.”

The emergency radio system is used to dispatch first responders (Police, Fire, EMS) to incidents 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 (ValleyCom), and the East Side Public Safety Communications Agency (ESPCA).

“This system will expand coverage more broadly throughout the county to help preparedness county-wide,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert.

The proceeds of the levy would go toward the capital, financing, and other costs associated with the replacement project, the Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network (PSERN) project. PSERN would replace aging components and provide new technology to support emergency dispatch and incident scene communications.

The current system has been in service for approximately 20 years. It consists of 26 transmitter sites and multiple interconnecting microwave and fiber systems that support over 100 agencies and approximately 16,000 radio users, each with a portable radio handset and/or installed mobile radio in a vehicle.

The system faces increasing component failures as it ages, and the vendor of the current system plans to discontinue the sale and repair of all components of the system after 2018. The current system was designed to serve a smaller population over a smaller area when it went online. If approved by the voters, the new system would provide improved coverage within the existing service area.

If approved by voters, the levy lid lift would be levied at a rate of not more than seven cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The levy is projected to generate $273 million in revenues. Based on the 2015 median home value in King County, the cost to the median homeowner would be $26.46 per year.

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