Council Tuesday hears ideas to fix failing radio system, reduce ground floor heights

A slide from the SERS presentation Tuesday.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night learned more about the failing Snohomish County’s Emergency Radio System (SERS), and agreed to support a resolution — which will appear on next week’s council agenda — supporting the need for a new system. The resolution also requests that Snohomish County provide a mechanism to pay for it.

Radio system users include 50 local agencies, 20 law enforcement agencies (including Edmonds police), 28 fire departments (including South Snohomish Fire), Snohomish County 911 and the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. The system covers 940 square miles with 20 towers that allow the various agencies to communicate with each other under a range of conditions and situations.

As we detailed in our earlier story here, the current 19-year-old Motorola analog equipment used by SERS is breaking down and replacement parts will no longer be available from the manufacturer as of 2020. The hope is to move to a P25 digital system, a national standard for public safety emergency radios.

Ralph Krusey, Chief Administrative Officer of SERS, told the council about a critical incident that occurred Jan. 12, when one of the systems failed and communications was disrupted between first responders in the field and the 911 dispatch center. “The officers and firefighters in the field couldn’t talk back to dispatch,” Krusey said. “That is one of the signs of our aging system.”

Last year Snohomish County’s Purchasing Division issued a request for proposals (RFP) to procure a new countywide radio system. Four potential bidders have expressed interest in the project. A contract could be awarded as soon as March for a system could cost taxpayers up to $75 million.

The council also:

– Received the annual report from the Snohomish County Public Defender Association, which contracts with the city to provide public defense services. Among the information presented: the vast majority of cases the public defender works on — 41 percent — involves driving charges, with 22 percent of those related to driving with a suspended license. There is a bill in the state Legislature that would decriminalize driving with a suspended license, which would impact that number, said Kathleen Kyle of the public defender association. Sixteen percent of total charges involve “crimes against persons,” with the largest number of those — 3 percent — involving domestic violence assault. Twenty-one percent of all charges include drugs or alcohol as an element of the crime, while 26 percent involve property offenses.

An example of the change, as illustrated in Monroe’s presentation.

– Heard a presentation from Mary Monroe, vice chair of the citizens Economic Development Commission, outlining a memo the EDC prepared regarding reducing the required 15-foot ground floor height to 12 feet for new buildings in the downtown Edmonds BD1 zone. “Buildings, property owners aren’t as interested in investing in properties in that area because it just doesn’t pencil out,” Monroe said. The 12-foot height would allow builders to include three stories within the downtown’s existing 30-foot height limit, rather than the two stories currently accommodated with the 15-foot limit. The council agreed after discussion to send the matter to the council’s Parks, Planning and Public Works Committee for an initial review.

– Received an upbeat presentation regarding the 2017 Edmonds Arts and Culture 2017 Economic Impact Study, which showed the arts has an annual $50 million a year local impact that results in 440 full-time-equivalent jobs and $17 million in labor income. (We’ll have more on that report in a future story.)

– Discussed a proposal to authorize a professional services agreement for the council’s Edmonds Marsh Study but agreed it needed more work before taking a vote.

– Talked about possibly changing the current council committee meeting format. Among the ideas: to have one committee meeting and three business meetings monthly (currently there are two business meetings and two committee meetings), and to move the parks and planning functions from the Parks, Planning and Public Works Committee to the Public Safety and Personnel Committee, since the bulk of the committee’s work is spent on public works projects.

Also at the beginning of the meeting Tuesday night, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling issued a statement regarding reported threats and a racial slur directed toward two African American teens near Harvey’s Lounge on Highway 99 Sunday. Noting that Edmonds police are investigating the matter, Earling said that Edmonds “is an open and welcoming community that does not tolerate the type of repugnant behavior alleged in this incident. Upon conclusion of the police department investigation, if the allegations are borne out and criminal charges are warranted, I fully expect the legal prosecution of this matter will be carried out to the full extent of the law and any perpetrators will be brought to justice,” Earling said.

— By Teresa Wippel



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