NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KFTA) — Washington County voters will soon decide if they want to approve a sales tax increase that would provide a new emergency communications system for local first responders.
Tontitown Police Chief, Corey Jeninson said the new radio system is critical for them to efficiently do their job.
The Justices of the Peace approved a $0.25 sales tax increase to be added to the ballot Thursday night. The sales tax is projected to raise $10 Million and will fund the new system for first responders in the county. It will now be up to the residents of Washington County to make the final decision.
“There are several times in our new building that we are not able to talk from inside of our building using our portable radios. There are areas in our city that we can drive into that our radios don’t work,” said Jenison.
Jenison said they have been using the same radio system for over 13 years and they need a stronger system in place. “Right now we have to go through our dispatch to relay information to other agencies’ dispatch to relay it back to their officers and then back…and soo it’s a time-consuming process.”
That may soon change if Washington County residents vote to pass the sales tax increase which would raise the $8.5 million needed to fund the emergency communications system.
“It’s going to connect all of Northwest Arkansas to the same radio system, so it doesn’t matter the agency. If it is something large scale we are going to be able to communicate and have quicker responses,” said Jenison.
The project would include 1,700 radios, four towers, dispatch consoles and additional equipment. All of the first responders would be under the Arkansas Wireless Information Network also known as AWIN.
Washington County Justice of the Peace, Patrick Deakins voted no for the sales tax at the Quorum Court meeting Thursday night. Deakins said he understands the need for the local law enforcement but doesn’t want to rush in making such a big decision. “$10 million is a lot of money in my mind, through a sales tax which will impact every citizen of Washington County and I just want to be very careful in the collecting and spending of that money on behalf of the people. I would have liked to see a final contract from the provider Motorola, of exactly the breakdown of cost, the timeline of the construction process and just more details on the backend,” Deakins said.
If approved a contract would be finalized with Motorola. It could take at least a year for the system to be fully in place.
Jenison said he hopes voters approve to fund the radio system. “This area is outgrowing us and we have to get ahead and getting ahead with our radio system will help Washington County.
The sales tax will be added to the ballot for the March 3rd primary elections.