City Council to vote soon on participation in county emergency radio network

Auburn's participation in new county emergency radio network is heading for a vote before the City Council, perhaps as early as the first meeting in December.

Police, fire and emergency responders of all kinds rely on King County’s radio system every minute of every day to do their jobs.

But the system’s provider, the Motorola Company, has already told King County that after 2017, it will no longer support the 20-year-old equipment that constitutes the county’s present emergency radio system.

Although King County expects to put a bond issue out to taxpayers sometime next April to pay for up-to-date equipment — also to be provided by Motorola — it is too early in the game to say exactly how much the county will ask for.

In addition to new equipment, King County has talked about replacing today’s multiple networks with a single network, thereby putting all the groups now taking advantage of King County’s Valley Com – that is, King County, the cities of Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Redmond, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila – under one umbrella for the establishment, implementation and operation of the Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network System.

Making that happen will take a lot of cooperation among those entities. And of course, a lot of money.

Auburn’s participation will soon come to a vote before the City Council, perhaps as early as the first meeting in December. A yes vote would authorize Mayor Nancy Backus to negotiate and execute the interlocal agreements.

The City’s Municipal Services Committee discussed the pending resolution Monday before forwarding it to the full council.

“They’re replacing the police radios because Motorola is no longer going to support the radio system they have,” said Auburn City Councilman Wayne Osborne, a member of the committee. “They’re going to have to move into the next generation. You gotta realize, Motorola is (in a powerful position here).”

City Attorney Dan Heid said recently that the pressing need is for all the user groups to agree on the details of the pending agreement to set up the nonprofit that is to run the operational end of the new system, if there is to be one.

“We’ve set this up so the mayor can negotiate the final terms because we’re running out of time,” Heid said. “If King County really wants to be successful in getting this before the voters, time is of the absolute essence.”

Two boards would in charge of the nonprofit: an administrative board, made up of mayors and the chief executive officers of the different cities; and a technical board, constituted of police and fire chiefs and other user groups.

All entities would participate, but there would be only one representative from the south side of the county, one speaking for the eastside cities, one for King County and one from Seattle.