Sales tax hike would fund radio improvements (corrected)


(Editor's note: The language about the amount that would be added to the sales tax by the proposal outline below. Undersheriff Gary Howell on Thursday said the new tax for radio communications would be .02 percent, not as stated in the original version of this report.)

Wahkiakum County voters this fall will likely face a request to boost sales tax to fund improvements to the radio system serving local governments and emergency responders including law enforcement, fire and ambulance crews, utility crews, school district and county and municipal public works crews.

The county board of commissioners will hold a public hearing July 19 on a proposed ordinance to authorize the new tax, which would be .02 percent added to the current sales tax. County officials say the tax would raise 20 cents on every $100 collected, or two cents per $10.

The proceeds from the tax would go into a fund dedicated to upgrades and enhancements to the radio communication system. Emergency responders say the present system is limited; for example, deputy sheriffs on each end of the county can't converse directly with each other; they must use a dispatcher as a link.

"The minor sales tax increase (not a property tax), will be put into a communications reserve to allow future upgrades and enhancements so we aren’t in this situation again that requires millions of dollars to replace or upgrade as technology changes," Sheriff Mark Howie said. "It will take years to build up enough in the reserve fund to pay for future improvements or mandates." This is our county's most essential radio system . . . "

In other business, Commissioner Dan Cothren reported that Mill Road near Rosburg is sinking. He had met with staff of the Columbia Land Trust, an area land owner to discuss the situation; they'll meet with the Gray's River Habitat Enhancement Group to discuss possible solutions.


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