City leaders discuss pending county bond to replace aging emergency radio system

The Motorola Company has told King County that after 2017, it will no longer support the equipment that makes up the current emergency radio system

Dan Heid

Dan Heid

Police, fire and emergency responders rely every day on King County’s emergency-radio system.

But as of now, the 20-year-old system is tired, outdated and must be replaced.

In fact, the Motorola Company has already told King County that after 2017, it will no longer support the system.

In addition to new equipment, King County would like to replace 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, Kent, Tukwila, Federal Way and Renton, the eastside cities, and the City of Seattle — under one umbrella.

Making that happen will take a lot of cooperation among those entities.

And of course, multiple millions of dollars.

And while King County expects to put a bond issue out to taxpayers sometime next April, it is too early in the game to say exactly how much the county will ask.

As Auburn City Attorney Dan Heid told City leaders Monday at City Hall, the pressing need now is for all the user groups to agree on the details of the pending agreement in order to set up the non profit that will run the operational end of things.

“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.

“Right now, it’s what side of the risk do you want to be on,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. “Do you want to be out in front — which is what King County is proposing right now — so that once Motorola no longer supports the current system, we’re under way with the new system? But if you were to wait and the bond doesn’t pass in April, then you would have to decide when it next goes on the ballot. Then you would have to decide how much risk are you willing to accept before the radios basically don’t work any more.”

“Then it’s not an option,” said City Councilman Bill Peloza.

“No,” Backus said.

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