Letters to the Editor

Your views in 200 words or less

911: Proposition 1 is a sensible solution

Letter by Ken Sharp, Lakewood on Oct. 27, 2011 at 2:06 pm with 7 Comments »
October 27, 2011 2:07 pm

I have been a fire service professional for 35 years and currently serve as the fire chief of West Pierce Fire & Rescue. I support Proposition 1 because I’ve seen firsthand how poor communications can wreak havoc on an emergency scene, putting first responders and citizens at risk. I believe it would be irresponsible to allow our patchwork system of six dispatch centers and six radio systems to continue, when Proposition 1 serves as a sensible solution that will create a single, integrated, state of the art system.

Proposition 1 is endorsed by a broad range of emergency service professionals and organizations, labor groups, local news media, and business groups, including the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County and the Chamber of Commerce groups for Lakewood, Gig Harbor, and Tacoma-Pierce County. They understand that creating a dedicated revenue stream not only fixes the current 911 system, but also allows us to keep pace with necessary technological improvements to the system for decades to come.

I support Proposition 1, but not just because I am a fire service professional. I support Proposition 1 because I am a resident, a husband and a father. Proposition 1 will not only support our first responders and dispatchers, it will also help to keep my family safe. Those things matter and Proposition 1 matters.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. citizendoe says:

    Prop 1 is a power and money grab. Interesting how the supporters you mention are those that will benefit from a massive infusion of cash.

    This is an unneeded solution to a much smaller problem that is being laid on the tax payers like tar on a white wedding dress…. Never to be gotten rid of.

    Pierce County needs to budget like every other community in the state has or does to fix their antiquated radio system. Thats it! thats the problem and the solution, Not build some gigantic bureaucracy for 911 calls.

    Name one centralized call center that provides better service than local ones…. the IRS HA!, the Department of Licensing HA!

    No NEW taxes for things we really really do not need. Now is not the time for this.

  2. rainiersnow says:


    When you go to the grocery store and you bill is $100.00 do you just open up your wallet and give $5,000.00 for the same groceries? No you don’t but this is exactly what Pierce County is expecting the citizens to do reference Prop 1.
    Read the Letter to the Editor on October 23rd which was about 911 poor plan leads to tax payers burden. There are the facts
    If this passes there will be HUGE payraises for the civilians at Firecom who will be merged with Tacoma fire who would deserve to be paid the same as the fire fighter sitting next to them. Also reading other articles posted by people, it sounds as if LESA (County) who controls the 911 money used it for comfy lounges, redoing offices, vehicles, and other non essential items.
    This is not changing the way your 911 call is handled. It will be answered by a police department and then transfered to the fire dept. How long does it take, it all depends but how ever many times it rang before the police answered, it is going to ring again before the fire dept answers.

    It is not true that a study Pierce County had done by an idependent company stated that what is proposed is NOT the way to go but County is ignoring that because they want more $$$$$$$$$$.
    A recent News Tribune article said that the county DOES have the money for the upgrade should $$911 (south sound 911, prop 1) fail. Stand up and tell them to use what they have and not take from the citizens anymore.
    It is time for Pierce County to BUDGET their money as the rest of us have to do.

  3. Really911 says:

    Mr Sharp, Shame on you. You are quoted in this very paper (Sunday 10/23) saying “we have a significant amount of money to draw from” and that West Pierce Fire and Rescue needs to replace 70 of their 300 portable radios and other items that comes to about $285,000.00. Now normally I would tell folks, “don’t believe everything you read in the paper”. But In this case, This is in the paper that you refer to as one of you supporters. So I say since they are your supporters, they are more likely to spin things in your favor. So I think it’s safe to say they did NOT mis-quote you.

    Since you only need $285,000.00, how about using the “significant funds” you refer to or use E911 funding that Tacoma Fire Dispatch and Fire Comm Dispatch each already received for 2011, which exceeds this amount by double.

    Regarding your statement in this letter to the editor, that you “have seen first hand how poor communications can wreak havoc on an emergency scene” and put first responders and the public at risk. Why have you not already drawn on these “significant funds” you refer to ? How dare you hold onto your funds and wait for the results on Nov 8th, while telling the public what a safety hazard these things are.

    Proposition 1 is nothing more than a money grab. All the supporters that you name, with exception of very few, are the same groups that will benefit the most from all this cash, and will be in control of it.

    You are trying to convince the public that 911 needs to be fixed, but you dont tell the public that the plan is to reduce the number of employees in the 911 centers, which will directly effect the public. 911 starts at the 911 centers. LESA already can not meet national call answering standards because they don’t have enough employees to answer the 911 calls. Reducing the number of employees in the 911 centers will only make it worse. You want the centers to be bigger, take on more responsiblities and do it with fewer employees. People don’t want to pay more for less.

    I have always been a vocal supporter of the fire department. I voted for the fire department levys, but you push this too far and ask for too much. I am a tax payer, a wife, a mother a Pierce County resident, a voter and a dispatcher. And I say Shame On You !!!

    I have already voted NO and I urge every citizen of Pierce County to do the same. VOTE NO on Prop 1. Make them use the money they have and quit trying to make the citizens fund their rediculous spending habits.

  4. You state your concerns for your fellow Firefighters & Medics that PROP 1 is the needed radios & equipment updates are needed so badly.
    Where was your support & concerns after 9-11 when all Police & Fire Department throuhout the United States received Grant Monies to improve Communications & Equipment. You and the rest of your Command Staff had the funds to make sure all of this was taken care of. Tacoma Police & Tacoma Fire went in together along with City of Puyallup for Police & Fire to upgrade to 800 radio systems & you & your Fire Dept along with the rest of Piere Counties Fire Departments all had the choice then to go on board. Your Fire Department & all of the other Fire Departments decided to use those monies for other equipment, so now your are crying Wolf & want all of the Pierce County Citizens to fund your Fire Department & all others to upgrade Radio’s & Communications Center due to your poor judgements & Administrations lack of leadership to have made it priority at the time it was needed over ten years ago. There is nothing wrong with 911 the problems are with your Chief & Assistant Chiefs along with your Fire Commisioneer to use the funds you have & correct the problems without making the Citizens of Pierce County suffer for your lack of leadership.

    Take responsibilty handle your internal problems & put some Administration Leaders in your Fire Departments that will take the funds they have & make sure that all Firefighters & Medical personell are fully protected in all ways.

    I too have over 30 years with Fire/EMS/Police 911 Dispatching & 9 years a a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT With Spanaway/Elk Plan Dist 7.

  5. I am tired of the emotional pleas for Prop 1. We keep hearing about potential problems and concerns but nobody has cited an actual example of a loss of life because of the current system. $295,000,000 is a very expensive insurance policy.

    We can get the benefits by purchasing new communications equipment with a cost for ALL areas in Pierce County of $35,000,000. Several of these agencies have already stated they have backup plans to purchase the new radios. There is no proven need for 2 dispatch centers over the existing system. They talk about having a backup center in case of a catastrophic event but an earthquake would probably impact both of these centers based on the projected sites. Multiple sites as we currently have would be more likely to be able to operate.

    The federal mandate is going to require the various government agencies to purchase the new equipment. Proposition 1 is just the counties way of putting the burden for a new state of the art system on the taxpayers while allowing some of these agencies to reduce the amount of money they need to commit to the 911 system. There is at least $125,000,000 from this proposition that will go to cover operating costs that are currently funded by local government. This is a tax increase hidden in a proposition. Do the research! Vote NO.

  6. chhannon says:

    If radios and other communication gear are in poor shape, then West Pierce Fire (led by Chief Ken Sharp) should make it a budget priority. Instead, they choose to have other prioities such as a dive team, rescue swimmer team and soon, a fire boat. In recent years, the department has also used federal funding to add staff. If radios are such a top priority, then use existing funding to fix it. Besides, won’t the new radios and 911 center inprove the efficiency of the departments? If so, then fund the project using cost savings. Since a firefighter has an average salary and benefits of $125,000, reducing staff by 2-3 would more than pay for the upgrades. West Pierce has a staff of 200+, so finding staffing reductions of 2-3 should be easy. West Pierce Fire already has the highest levy taxes in the county and is extremely well funded. Don’t ask us for more funds. VOTE NO!!

  7. JimmyEOlson says:

    I am tired of Fire Depts. telling me what I need. You all have budgets double and triple the size of police depts., you get more of a share of property taxes than all other public safety units combined (police, courts, jail), PLUS you get two or three levy’s running at the same time, you work 8 days a month, you sleep a third of your paid shift, when you take a day off you take 16 hours of time off for the 24 you are gone, you cook meals on paid time, if you are away from the station during mealtimes the taxpayer pays for your food, you respond to a thirtieth of the number of calls that police do, police dispatchers screen all of your fire calls, your injured firefighters get to work in dispatch centers getting paid 40% more than civilians, and still you whine for more money. You’ll get none.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0