The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

Columbia County Seeks Sales Tax Increase to Improve Emergency Communications


October 26, 2017

DAYTON--If passed by voters in Columbia County, Proposition 1 will provide for ongoing, stable funding for improvements, and maintenance of the county’s emergency response radio system and 911 emergency services operation through a county-wide sales and use tax of one-tenth of one percent.

For every ten-dollar retail purchase, Columbia County would receive 1 cent in sales tax. The impact to the average household is approximately $1 each month, or $12 a year,” according to Emergency Management Services Director Lisa Caldwell.

Public safety is being compromised by emergency communications equipment that has reached the end of its useful life, Caldwell said.

The radio system suffers from inadequate coverage throughout the county and there is no back up system in place should the equipment fail. Mobile and portable radios are outdated and there are an inadequate number of repeaters/towers, she said.

Caldwell said funds from the sales and use tax would be used to upgrade the aging analog dispatch radio console, to a new, stable, internet protocol base application, which will help first responders who share frequencies.

Without ongoing maintenance the equipment at six radio tower sites will become obsolete and non-function, as well, Caldwell said.

Columbia County is also committed to maintaining staff for the 911 Public Safety Communications Department and associated emergency radio communications equipment. Caldwell said the dispatch center is currently understaffed.

She said the county is asking for voter approval because of declining revenue from the state, and because a Homeland Security grant, which had been used for communications equipment improvements, is no longer available. That grant never did provide for equipment maintenance, she added.

Proposition 1 has a “sunset clause” which says the sales and use tax will begin on January 1, 2018, and will end on December 31, 2028.


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