Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Washington County voters say yes to improving 911 equipment

COURTESY WCCCA - The Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency handles 9-1-1 dispatch across Washington County. The Beaverton agency and area police and fire agencies got a big boost on Tuesday with the passage of a $77 million bond to upgrade communications equipment between dispatchers and first responders.Washington County voters have approved a plan that would upgrade an emergency radio communications system that dates back to the 1990s.

Measure 34-243 appears to have passed with Washington County voters, according to early results released at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Unofficial election results from Tuesday’s Oregon primary election show the “yes” vote securing 64.7 percent of Tuesday’s vote, followed by 22 percent of no voters.

The $77 million bond issue would convert the county’s aging emergency communications equipment to the latest technology, expand coverage and strengthen the emergency communications system against earthquakes and other disasters.

The cost to the owner of an average house is estimated at $20 annually, at a rate of no more than 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Payments begin with 2016 property tax bills this fall.

Measure 34-243 Washington County 911 bond levy
*As of 10 p.m., May 17

Campaign Votes

“It was a really strong return,” said Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, who campaigned in favor of the measure. “We at the Sheriff’s Office are really thankful to the voters for supporting the improvements needed to keep this important communications system functioning not just for now but for a long time in the future.”

The Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency handles all 9-1-1 dispatch to fire, police and medical personnel in 19 different agencies — made up of the county, 12 cities and six fire districts.

“When you’re dealing with that many through dispatch, everybody counts on that system to work,” Garrett said.

Garrett said that voters in Washington County understand the importance of such a system, and its work to save lives.

“It touches every single emergency responder,” he said. “Our communities depend on us to show up when we’re needed. There isn’t a police officer, firefighter or medic that doesn’t depend on this system to get them where they need to be and when they need to be there. We can’t bring the tools to bear to solve the problems the public expects us to without it.”

But the current system was built back when most households used landline telephones. Today, most of the 500,000 calls into the dispatch center — 160,000 of them to 911 emergency lines in 2015 — were generated by cell or smartphones.

The center also handled 530,000 incidents generated by police and fire agencies.

“As our growth continues, so does our need to have a system that can not only meet today’s emergencies, but also tomorrow’s increasing demand as well,” said Larry Boxman, vice president for operations at Metro/West Ambulance based in Hillsboro.

About half the bond issue ($37.9 million) will be spent on radio equipment and towers, and $12.2 million for replacement of 3,000 analog radios still in use by member agencies.

The rest is proposed for reinforcement against earthquakes, $10 million; periodic technological upgrades over the next 20 years, $4.1 million; new radio consoles and other equipment for the dispatch center, $1.9 million, and a 24-hour alert system for fire stations, $1.8 million. About 10 percent is set aside for contingencies.