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North County voters asked to approve fire authority
WARM BEACH Voters in Bryant, Freeborn and Warm Beach will decide May 15 whether Snohomish County Fire Protection districts 14 and 18 can officially form the second fire authority in Washington state history.
If Proposition 1 receives a majority of at least 50 percent plus one vote, the two fire districts will form the North County Regional Fire Authority, combining fire and emergency medical services for Bryant, Freeborn and Warm Beach.
Snohomish County Fire Protection District 14 Chief Rex Lindquist and District 18 Chief Dale Fulfs explained that the fire authority would formalize the working arrangement thats already developed between the two districts. They emphasized that this measure would not include any additional or increased taxes.
A fire authority would save time and make more efficient use of our money and facilities, Lindquist said. It would be funded out of our regular budgets and require no new bond or levy. In fact, because wed be getting a better bang for our buck, wed go to the public less for equipment.
Fulfs elaborated that, instead of each fire district maintaining its own three-member board of commissions, the fire authority would consolidate it into a single six-member board of commissioners so that both districts would retain their current levels of representation.
Lindquist assured the public that no personnel changes would result from this measure. He said that such partnerships between smaller fire districts are a nationwide trend because they allow such organizations to share their resources and allocate them to where theyre called on most often, rather than requiring each agency to stock its own reserves.
Customer service is our top priority here, said North County Fire and EMS Battalion Chief Christian Davis. These two districts have done this as a successful trial for the past five years. They want to cut out the unnecessary red tape, like separate budgets and redundant board meetings, but they have to go to the voters to do it.
Snohomish County Fire Protection District 14 includes Freeborn Station 96 and Warm Beach Station 97, while Snohomish County Fire Protection District 18 includes Kackman Station 90, Bryant Station 91 and Grandview Station 92. Stations 90, 96 and 97 are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while Stations 91 and 92 are staffed by volunteer responders.
Between both districts, weve got about 70 people covering 108 square miles, Davis said. Itll be 100 people when all our positions are filled.
Under the fire authoritys command structure, Lindquist would serve as administrative chief, managing its budget and offices, while Fulfs would act as operations chief, overseeing its crews.
The fire authority would need two chiefs to fill those positions anyway, Lindquist said. Before, we had to do all our own training and maintenance, but by making interlocal agreements we can train and maintain together. Whenever we can cooperate with other agencies, we will to avoid going to the voters for more money.
The two boards of fire commissioners already passed a joint resolution concerning the creation of a regional fire protection service authority. If this proposition passes, it would create the North County Regional Fire Authority effective Jan. 1, 2008, with funds from the existing property tax levies for Snohomish County Fire Protection districts 14 and 18.
Mail-in ballots for Proposition 1 will be sent out to area voters April 26.