It was a formality, but a big step nevertheless in the upgrading of Pierce County’s 9-1-1 emergency contact system.
The County Council last week authorized the sale of $18 million in general obligation bonds that will finance the purchase and installation of new radio equipment that also has the approval of voters countywide.
Motorola is the provider of the equipment. A contract with the company was approved last February by the council.
The bonds and the contract stem from voters’ approval last November of a county ballot measure that asked for an increase of the county’s sales tax by one-tenth of 1 percent. The additional tax revenue will pay for the bonds.
The higher tax took effect in April.
The new 9-1-1 system will cost $105 million altogether and will include new, updated dispatch centers. Part of the project’s expense will be covered by an Enhanced 9-1-1 tax (20 cents per telephone line) that the council approved in 2010.
The new system and its managing agency, South Sound 9-1-1, is necessary to modernize communications equipment for police and fire departments, bring the system into compliance with federal requirements, and make emergency personnel more effective and the public safer, according to county officials and leaders of fire and police agencies.
In the current system for multi-agency dispatching, some departments can’t communicate directly with each other because their radios use different frequencies. Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor and other officials have noted that in some places, including the Eatonville area, some radio equipment can’t send or receive messages, which hinders first-responders.
The Eatonville Fire Department and Graham Fire and Rescue are among the approximately 40 fire and police agencies that will get new radio equipment.
The new system will provide two new dispatch centers in Pierce County – one for police and one for fire departments. They would replace three centers that officials say are outdated.
The council, without comment, approved the bonds at its July 31 meeting in Tacoma.