R.I. County emergency, jail workers make plea for public safety tax increase


ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) –  On November 8th, Rock Island County voters will decide whether to pass a half percent public safety sales tax increase. If approved, the county will be able to make what many say are much-needed updates to the emergency communications system. KWQC got an inside look at what’s being called very outdated technology and how it impacts day-to-day operations.

Staff in several different positions tell us they deal with communication issues on a regular basis. They say it’s time for a change because even the smallest hiccup in the system has potential to put safety in jeopardy.

The radio is one of the most utilized tools for a sheriff’s deputy. Jamieson Brown says the technology his department has been using for years just isn’t cutting it anymore.

“It’s an antique. I mean, we’re the only department in Rock Island County that’s on that system so we can’t talk to Rock Island city, we can’t talk to Moline over the air,” said Brown.

On a regular basis deputies say they can’t even clearly communicate within their own department thanks to transmission problems and dead spots around the county.

“There’s been times where someone needs a backup car and you can’t hear them so they either gotta find us on the computer and send us a message or call us on the cell phone,” he added.

Emergency 911 dispatchers feel the frustration too. Staff members say it’s hard to coordinate with other agencies when all others are working with more modern technology.

“We need to come into this century and get new and improved equipment so we can adequately communicate with our officers and fire and EMS personnel on scene,” said Sgt. Tracy Czekalski, a Rock Island County 911 Supervisor.

There are more of the same issues within the jail where unclear radio communications can be an issue if, for example, an inmate is having a medical issue or a fight breaks out.

“I think it’s very important. We have a job to do. Our job is to keep the inmates safe, our staff safe. The tax, if it goes through, can help make sure that can be done properly and the best we can do,” said Lt. Christopher Young, Rock Island County Corrections.

If approved the half percent increase for public safety would mean an additional 50 cents in sales tax for every $100 spent. The revenue would also help build a minimum fund reserve so the county doesn’t have to borrow for public safety service.

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