SPOKANE, Wash. --- Voting on Proposition 1, which will renew the sales tax that funds Spokane County emergency communications system, is underway.
Some viewers have told KREM 2 that they are skeptical about how their tax dollars are being spent and they are not alone.
The original measure, passed back in 2008, created a panel of citizens to keep tabs on how the money is spent.
One watchdog, Kent Harrison, has been a member of the Emergency Services Communications Policy Board for five years now.
Harrison said his background with the AT&T Corporation makes him interested in telecommunications and balancing a budget.
To be a citizen watchdog, Harrison had to apply and interview with the county.
KREM 2 Rob Harris asked Harrison if there was any pretense that he would approve of Proposition 1 spending if he got the job.
“No. In fact if you read the minutes of the meetings, you’ll see I’m very vocal in the meetings,” Harrison said. “There’s no pressure on me at all. I make my own mind up on what I think should be done.”
Harris asked if Harrison feels like the money spent under Proposition 1 has been spent effectively.
“I do,” Harrison said. “I’m a tax hound. I’m not a roll-over taxes. Nobody likes taxes. So this is worthwhile money.”
Harrison is one of the three citizens on the policy board. The policy board specifically acts as watchdogs, and they speak out if they feel taxpayer dollars are being wasted.
The policy board attends monthly meetings with first responders and county officials, weigh in on policy decisions and create annual reports on how they feel things are going.
“The spending in my opinion, coming from the private sector and being held accountable to cost, it’s very good,” Harrison said.
One of the questions KREM 2 saw on social media was, “If we’ve had this tax since 2008, and if all the new equipment is already bought, then why do we need to extend it again?”
“Without that money, there’s going to be hard choices made in a prioritized fashion of what gets maintained and what doesn’t,” Harrison said.
“Current system takes care of feeding. There's software upgrade, there's hardware upgrades, the radios have an effective life of probably 7 years or so, they have to be replaced. Now we're wanting to see text to 911, we're wanting to see pictures to 911, video to 911, those are new services that this money will go on to support,” Harrison said.
The county has five years worth of reports from the citizen board available here.
The policy board’s meetings are open to the public. Meetings are held the last Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Spokane County 911 call center.
Ballots are due Tuesday, April 25. You can mail them in or drop them off at any public library or the STA plaza downtown.