Voters in Clackamas, Washington counties to decide on 911 system - KPTV - FOX 12

Voters in Clackamas, Washington counties to decide on 911 system upgrades

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The 911 dispatch center at WCCCA in Beaverton. The 911 dispatch center at WCCCA in Beaverton.

Voters in two Portland-area counties will decide in Tuesday’s primary election whether to fund upgrades to the antiquated emergency radio system that 911 dispatchers rely on.

Known as ballot measure 3-476 in Clackamas County and 34-243 in Washington County, it funds various system improvements such as the conversion from analog to digital technology, seismic upgrades and new radio towers for expanded coverage and future growth.

It would also help fix areas that are currently “radio dark” including some hospitals, schools and shopping areas where first responders aren’t able to use the existing radio system to communicate with each other.

It would cost the average homeowner roughly $2 a month.

“We’re here to make sure that our public is safe and our responders are safe and we can’t do that if we can’t communicate,” Kelly Dutra told Fox 12 Monday.

Dutra is the director of the Washington County 911 system known as WCCCA, or Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency, where most of the radio communications equipment that also serves Clackamas County is so outdated replacement parts are often found on re-sale markets like Ebay.

“This technology goes back to the late 80s and we purchased it in the early 90s,” said Ron Polluconi, the Technical Services Supervisor at WCCCA. “A lot of the parts we’re running out of, so that’s why we’re beginning to feel a little bit of pressure now.”

A large-scale failure could leave 911 dispatchers at a certain communications center unable to reach police officers or firefighters.

If the measure passes in one county but not the other Tuesday, improvements could still move forward where voters give the OK. If it fails, supporters say they will try to get it back on the ballot at a later time.

“[The current system] is failing, and we need to get it replaced or we won’t have communications,” said John Hartsock, Manager of the Clackamas 800 Radio Group. 

“I know it’s a big ask,” Dutra added. “It’s something that we can’t do our job without.”

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