Another tax proposal, this one for one year only, may make its way to voters in November.

A proposed one-cent sales tax is being discussed by members of the Faulkner County Communications Board. The proceeds of the tax would be to fund a new radio system for all emergency responders throughout the county and the city of Conway.

Keith Hillman, spokesman for the communications board as well as the Fire Chief of Vilonia, said that representatives from the board will discuss the possibility of placing the tax on the November ballot with the Faulkner County Quorum Court during its meeting at 7 p.m. tonight in the county judge’s office.

“This tax would be one cent for one year, and then it would be taken off the books,” Hillman said. “The money generated would be able to fund the entire system with money set aside for upgrades. The county would not have to worry about any communications problems for many years.”
Hillman said the current problem is the inability to communicate within departments throughout the county. He said there could be major problems if another event such as another tornado or earthquake were to hit the county.

“The current radio system we have is badly outdated,” he said. “If something very bad were to happen, I don’t think we would be able to speak with anyone.”

Hillman said the radio system would involve all emergency responders including the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office, all area fire departments, Conway Police and Fire Departments, Metropolitan Emergency Medical Systems (MEMS) and Emergency Squad. All departments would be placed on different frequencies but would be able to communicate with each other much more easily.

If the tax were approved, the estimated revenue would be $14.5 million. A recent quote from Grace Communications would place a radio in every fire truck and police car along with handheld radios for every person.

The plan would cost approximately $4.2 million for Faulkner County Fire, $3.6 million for Conway departments, $1.5 million for additional voice channels at Guy, Floyd and Cabot Towers and $270,000 for additional radios. The total cost would be about $10 million with $5 million surplus for maintenance and future upgrades.

Hillman said the project would be self-sustaining with no additional funding needed. He said the radios would be part of the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN), which currently is the system used by Arkansas State Troopers.

Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin informed those in attendance at the Finance and Administration Committee last week that a presentation would be made at the Quorum Court meeting.

“I have met with them, and I let them know that any sort of tax proposal is going to be an uphill climb,” Scroggin said.