ARTICLE: CSEPP Radio System Needs Tax Support

The Hermiston Herald 09/01/2008

CSEPP radio system needs tax support
Fire chief says federal money disappearing

Mike Roxbury, Umatilla fire chief, is proposing a new tax district for the continued operation of the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) radio system.

After the Umatilla Chemical Depot finishes disposing its chemical munitions, Roxbury told the Echo City Council recently, the federal money that is supporting the radio system will dry up.

Most emergency and law enforcement agencies in Umatilla and Morrow counties rely on the CSEPP radio system for communications, he said. Without it they will have to install and upgrade old radios, which will be costly and drastically reduce their ability to communicate.

Also, a new Federal Communications Commission rule that all public safety radio systems be “narrowbanded,” or changed from 25 kHz-wide channels to 12.5 kHz-wide channels by 2013 means the old radios would have to be further upgraded, and their coverage areas reduced.

“It’s not really, are we going to have to pay, but who are we going to have to pay and how much,” Roxbury said.

The CSEPP radio system initially cost $10 million to build and has annual operating cost of about $200,000.

The fairest way to distribute the cost of maintaining the system, Roxbury said, is to establish a taxing district that encompasses the system’s coverage area.

A tax district that covers all of Morrow County and most of Umatilla County and imposes a tax of 11 to 20 cents per $1,000 dollars of assessed value, he said, would maintain the system and pay for eventual upgrades and system replacement.

Roxbury is the chair of the CSEPP radio system governing board, also known as the 450 Governing Board.

Echo, he said, is his second stop on a list of 29 agencies and municipalities that need to agree to the district before the board can move on to the next step, which is getting a bill passed in the Legislature allowing such a taxing district.

Roxbury said one legislator already has agreed to introduce a bill once the board has the approvals in hand. The governing board hopes to have a bill on the ballot by 2010, he said.

In other business, the council voted 5-0-1 to accept the resignation of councilor Phyllis Shovelski. Pasquale Anolfo abstained.

Shovelski did not give a reason for her resignation during the public meeting. She was elected to the City Council in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. The council has made no decision about replacing Shovelski, said Diane Berry, city administrator.

The council also discussed the city’s progress in securing a federal grant for a new wastewater treatment system.