Proposition 1 would renew tax for emergency communications systems

SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane County voters have the chance now to weigh in on their own safety. All through a special election, for which you'll see ballots arriving in your mailbox in the coming days.

Proposition 1 is a measure to renew the sales and use tax for emergency communications systems and facilities -- think 911, dispatch, and Crime Check.

This is not a new tax. It would continue the existing tax the county says helps operate, maintain, and improve these systems and services within the county.

On the other end of the calls coming into Spokane County's Combined Communications building are people who need help.

"About 250,000 calls a year [come] into the center, over 600 a day Crime Check calls come into the 911 center," explained Chief Bryan Collins with the Spokane Valley Fire Department. About that many 911 calls come into the center as well.

In 2008, voters approved the 1/10th of 1 percent of sales and use tax. The county says for an average Spokane County household, that's about $1 per month. Since then, Spokane County says it has built an updated and reliable emergency communication system.

If Prop 1 passes, the county says law and fire agencies will maintain the emergency communications that include 911, police, fire, EMS, and Crime Check. The county says it will also improve the system's technology and capabilities.

"We're going to continue to build out the radio system," explained Chief Collins. "There are still areas where the Sheriff's Department -- I think 20 to 30 percent of the area, in the unincorporated areas -- where we still have some transmission issues."

The county says some of those improvements include updating the region's system that notifies people during emergencies, like major storms or wild land fires, and modernizing the 911 system to allow people to send in photos or videos along with an emergency call.

"There's a certain expectation that as technology is available to our public and to our citizens that we integrate with that technology on the emergency side," Chief Collins said, "so they don't have to have to do something they're not accustomed to or used to doing in order to communicate with us."

If Proposition 1 does not pass, the current tax will expire next September. The county says without the funds, the emergency communication system will not be maintained at its current level, and Crime Check services would be reduced.

Ballots were sent out this week, and the special election is on April 25.

For more information, visit