Update our Emergency Communications System | Letter

There is a disaster looming in San Juan County. Our emergency radio communication system is limited, decades old and vulnerable to failure. This is the system that we depend on to send out the EMTs, fire trucks, sheriff and road crews.

It’s critical that emergency services have reliable radio coverage. On all of the islands there are places that the existing radio infrastructure cannot reach — this is dangerous for both the people who need help and the emergency responders.

The plan is to install reliable and maintainable equipment to improve coverage. No new poles are needed. The system will be tied together by existing fiber installed by OPALCO and Rock Island.

Installing the system will cost $3 million which is significantly less than what other counties have spent. Annual maintenance is about $120,000. The measure is for a 0.15 % sales tax increase for five years — that will pay for construction of the new system — which will then drop to 0.05 % thereafter for ongoing maintenance.

The beauty in funding by sales tax is that everyone who uses the services — tourists included — will pay. It is estimated that the cost per island family is roughly $50–$80 per year for the first five years.

Now retired after 10 years on the board of Lopez Fire and EMS, I recommend that you vote YES on the modest sales tax increase.

Jim Lett

Lopez Island