Upgrade to city's emergency communication system willrequire city to secure financing

A resolution passed Nov. 20 allowing the city to receive financing for expenses related to the emergency communications system upgrade project in partnership with Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA).

"Dispatch is a service that is highly technical, everything is becoming computerized, all radios are becoming computerized and there is a lot of technology that is interconnected. The upgrade is a part of a natural progress. It is like going from a landline to a cell phone," Mary Nuwell, city support services manager, said.

The emergency communications system upgrade is Newberg's portion of a larger project with WCCCA and C800, Motorola's 800 megahertz digital radio system contract, to move from an analog to a digital public safety radio system. Newberg-Dundee Police, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Dundee Fire department and the Newberg dispatch center utilize the WCCCA 800 MHz radio system for emergency radio communications.

The system has been designed for sharing of information with other interconnected systems such as CAD (computer aided dispatch), logging, mapping and other systems. Newberg's current and future public safety communication capability is dependent upon this project.

"Newberg's portion of this communications system upgrade includes a tower, radios, microwaves and dispatch center upgrades," Newell said.

The P25 radio system will allow officers, firefighters and the dispatch center to exchange and make use of information within Washington, Clackamas and areas of Yamhill counties.

The overall project cost to the city is approximately $3.15 million. In September, the City Council approved a contract with Motorola for $2.01 million. The city has the responsibility for the overall financial management and funding of its portion of the project.

"In an effort to ease the budgetary impact as well as spread the cost across the life of the equipment, the city is seeking financing for this project in a prudent and responsible manner," Matt Zook, city finance director, said. "In the meantime, the city has made the first payment of approximately $735,000 to Motorola, who is a vendor in the project."

That amount will be included in the financing for the project.

The city is now searching for a good funding source for the upgrade project. One option is tax-exempt financing, used by state and local governments to raise capital to finance public capital improvements and other projects, including infrastructure facilities and including the communication upgrade system.

From an investor's viewpoint, "If you were going to receive interest income, you would want to know if you need to pay tax on interest income" Zook said "From the city's standpoint, if the investor doesn't have to pay taxes on their interest income, then the interest rate on the financing should be lower." Having a lower interest rate will in turn reduce the total cost to the city.

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