Carson Votes No, but Passage of Call Box Fee Is Still Expected

Despite a no vote from Carson, county transportation officials are optimistic that a majority of cities in Los Angeles County will approve an annual $1-a-car tax to maintain and improve the freeway call box system.

Of the eight South Bay cities that have voted on the measure, Carson is the only one to oppose it.

Voting in favor were Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Estates, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Inglewood, El Segundo and Gardena. Cities that have not voted on the matter are Torrance, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Avalon and Lawndale.

As of Wednesday, the County Board of Supervisors and 37 of the county's 85 cities, including Los Angeles, have approved the new fee.

Passage Predicted

"I anticipate that we will have six more cities by the end of the month," said Mary Lou Echternach, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.

Before the fee can be levied, the county board and a majority of the cities--43--must adopt it. The cities in favor of the measure must represent a majority of the county population.

Carson rejected the measure on a 2-2 vote with Mayor Kay Calas and Michael Mitoma voting in favor and Sylvia Muise and Vera Robles DeWitt voting against. The measure died because of the tie vote. Councilman Tom Mills was absent.

Muise and DeWitt said they opposed the new fee because they said it would be a new tax. Calas and Mitoma said the freeway call box system is vital for safety and needs improvement.

In 1967, Los Angeles County set up a freeway call box system that currently has 3,600 phones and requires about $2.5 million a year to maintain and operate. Funding is split 50-50 between the county and the California Highway Patrol.

System in Disrepair

However, the Los Angeles system, once a model, has fallen into disrepair, with about 10% of the phones out of order at any given time and up to half not working on some occasions, according to the commission. The Highway Patrol staff that answers the phones is overloaded and callers must sometimes wait up to 40 minutes to complete a call, officials said.

On Jan. 1, 1986, legislation took effect that permits counties to set up or maintain a freeway call box system with a $1 increase in vehicle registration fees.

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