BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County 911 Services District could ask voters next May to support permanent funding. Local agencies and County Commissioners must sign off on the ballot measure, but 911 Director Steve Reinke says they've finally settled on a levy amount.
The request would be a maximum rate of 42.5-cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. It would be adjusted yearly, based on need. Part of the funds will be used for a new countywide radio system. 911 Director Steve Reinke tells KBND News using part of the state's new system will cut start-up costs. "What we don't have though, are the long-term operational money to maintain it. The maintenance costs are going to be a little bit higher because of this partnership, we have to help maintain our part of the state system we're going to be using. That cost, we estimate, is about 4.5-cents, when it translates into a levy amount. And, we're also going to ask for another penny and a half to be able to replace the system in 15 years."
The cost of creating the new system could still run $6.5 million, despite the help from the state. But, Director Reinke says it will provide better service to the public. "Our call receivers, right now, most of them have to answer a radio channel at the same time they're taking 911 calls. One of the things the levy will help us with is the ability to have more dedicated call receivers so they're not trying to fly a radio console and talk to police officers or firefighters in the field at the same time they're fielding 911 calls, which will provide a better and higher level of service."
A levy request cannot go to voters without approval from a number of public safety agencies. Reinke says, "Once we have those resolutions in place, then the County Commissioners will do their own resolution to put it on the ballot for May of 2016. There's a couple of public hearings as part of that process as the Commissioners act. But, the key to success is to have all of our public safety boards and councils agree that this is the right thing to do, 'we're with you.'" Reinke expects that ballot decision by the end of the year.