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Emergency Radio System Upgrade Tax In Front Of Voters This Month

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Eric Peacock
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Seattle police and other emergency responders are using an aging radio network to communicate on the job. Voters are being asked to fund a replacement.

King County officials are asking local voters to support a property tax hike so local law enforcement officers, firefighters and other emergency first-responders can get an upgrade for their aging radio system. 

“It’s about 18 years old. And the problem is twofold," said Marlin Blizinsky, with the Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network. "One is that the system is wearing out.”

The other issue is that in about three years, the current vendor will stop selling replacement parts and offering technical support. The current system is analog and the replacement radio network will be digital. The upgrade will address existing problems like poor reception.

The proposal seeks to add 7 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. For someone with a $500,000 house, it amounts to an additional $35 per year.

Opponents of the measure worry that it will put local fire departments close to a state-mandated tax cap, and might mean less money for fire districts in the future.

Voters in several communities around the region will have other decisions to make, too.

In King County, local issues are in front of voters in Covington, Enumclaw, Vashon Island and Sammamish. Voters in the South King Fire district are being asked to approve nearly $54 million dollars in bonds for fire station improvements and safety equipment.

And in Snohomish County, voters are being asked to green light more than $110 million dollars in bonds, for school improvements.

Ballots must be postmarked or placed in a drop-box by April 28.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.