BEND, OR -- Deschutes County 9-1-1 leaders are considering putting a levy to voters to help pay for improvements to the county’s radio and dispatch equipment and establish stable funding for the agency. 911 Director Steve Reinke tells KBND News a potential levy is still at least a year away because the county needs to decide if there are partnerships which could keep the project’s cost down. "We’re investigating using the state radio system as much as possible to transport radio signal from the 911 center to the various sites around the region. And, because the state is putting in a trunked radio system, we may be able to join with them on several sites and then we would also share the cost of the site and the maintenance. There’s just a tremendous benefit."
Reinke says the agency is also talking with other jurisdictions in an effort to ease the burden of funding. "We’ve communicated with the school districts, road departments, street departments, public works and the airport to talk about, would you be interested in partnering with us on this system if we are to put it in place. In other words, this system has the ability to allow more users on to help their communications because most of these agencies maintain a radio system of their own."
Without partnerships, Reinke says a new dispatch system could cost the county $13-$14 million. He's confident the county will be able to enter into an agreement with the state, but the rest of the funding would likely come from a new operating levy. "What we’d prefer to do is to look at our long term operational needs and raise our permanent funding level to meet the long term needs of our center, operationally, as well as whatever we might need for that radio system on top of that. The strategic planning process has given us an idea of what our future budgets would look like based on the level of service our users and the public want us to deliver. What we want to make sure is that that’s sustainable, long term." He says a potential levy could be sent to voters as soon as May of 2016. County Commissioners approved the Deschutes County 911's strategic plan, yesterday, telling staff to move forward with the plan.