COOS COUNTY — The final unofficial Election Day tally shows County Measure 6-178 winning with a surge of votes.
As of 12 a.m. on Wednesday, after a brief technical issue with the Coos County Elections website, early numbers show 62% of voters — or 12,445 ballots — approved the increase to property taxes. A total of 37.9%, or 7,598 ballots, voted “No.”
This decision replaces the failing 911 radio system countywide.
“Citizens … have voted to show that their safety and the safety of first responders is in their mind,” said Kelley Andrews, member of the Coos County 911 Radio Communications Advisory Group that formed two years ago to update the county’s radio system. The group is made up of representatives from the Coos County Sheriff’s Office, the Myrtle Point and Bandon fire departments, and the Coos Forest Protective Association.
Ballot Measure 6-178 asked voters to address the county’s outdated radio equipment by imposing a potentially 3% or greater property tax. The tax, $.20 per $1,000 of assessed value, would run for five years starting on July 1.
The ballot summary described the need for a new radio system because the current one has “failed more than four times in the last seven months, leaving fire, medical and police responders without radio communications.”
It added that the manufacturer no longer supports the current system and that used parts are scarce and expensive. Furthermore, the lack of radio communications has led to “dangerous situations for both responders and citizens calling for help.”
“The failing 911 system supports 16 fire agencies, three ambulance services, 12 police agencies and the County Road Department,” the ballot summary read.
The tax levy will raise a total of $1,344,879.61 by 2025. All collected funds are to be dedicated to 911 communications.
Election night results are welcomed by Andrews, especially after issues with the radio system were reported again over the weekend, he said.
The only first responders to not receive the new radio system would be the Oregon State Police and Bay Cities Ambulance.
“… In the last few months, with the pandemic and economic downturn, (voters) still have chosen to grant us the privilege of using their taxpayer money to build this new system that will hopefully provide years of safety for the Coos County citizens,” Andrews said. “I want to thank the Coos County taxpayers for believing in us and understanding we have their best interests at heart. It truly is the safety of the citizens because if an unfortunate accident occurs and we need to send help, that process is severely hampered by that system.
“We will be good stewards of their money.”