ARTICLE: Radio District A Go; Tax Is A No

East Oregonian  05/19/2010

Radio district a go; tax is a no
Reporter: Samantha Tipler

Proponents for a taxing district to support an emergency radio system from the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program can celebrate some success, but not a total victory.

Voters approved forming the district but not the tax to fund it.

“We’re halfway there,” said Mike Roxbury, Umatilla Rural Fire Chief, and now, a member of the board overseeing the district. He, along with the other five members of the board, were elected to their posts Tuesday on the same ballot that held the measures for the district and the tax.

Voters in Umatilla and Morrow counties approved the district by an 816-vote margin, 6,552 – 5,736, or 53.33 percent for to 46.67 percent against.

The tax – which had a rate of 17 cents per $1,000, or about $25 for a $150,000 home – failed by 663 votes because of Umatilla County.

The tax passed narrowly in Morrow County 1,132 – 1,097, or 50.79 percent for to 49.21 percent against. But Umatilla County voters shot down the tax 5,279 – 4,581, or 53.54 percent against to 46.46 percent in support.

“The district will be formed and that’s a great thing,” Roxbury said. “It’s half the battle.”

Both Roxbury and Jim Stearns, Umatilla County Emergency Manager said they were not surprised by the results.

“I think with the economy and some of the issues federally with politics, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they both failed all the way around because it was a complex issue.”

The district does have a bit more wiggle room from when the Umatilla Chemical Depot ends its program and the federal dollars stop rolling in from the CSEPP program, Stearns said. Because of delays at the depot, end dates have been given for 2011 to 2012, he said.

“We’re fortunate,” Stearns said. “It looks like the federal government will fund us for a while.”

Once the federal funds end, the radio district will be on its own for funding.

That’s why supporters will try to pass the tax again in November, likely at the same taxing rate, Roxbury said.

Without a tax, Stearns said, there wouldn’t be much for a district to do.

“If we don’t fund it, we’re not going to have a district,” he said.