Safety in peril?

More than 50 people from the Valley's unincorporated areas attended a meeting held Monday evening, June 23, at the Fall City Fire Station, to address safety issues with King County Sheriff Sue Rahr.

A large number of public safety officers and services will be cut as a result of a $2.5 million budget shortfall for the King County Sheriff's Office this year. Next year, Rahr will have to cut an additional $7.5 million in services. The unincorporated areas of King County will experience the largest decrease in services and officers on patrol.

"The frustration here is being unincorporated," said Richard Werlein of Fall City. "Being rural is like being drowned out."

Other attendees expressed similar concerns: "Anyone who has lived (in an unincorporated area) has learned that we kind of need to take care of ourselves," said Kathy Brasch of Carnation.

Rahr sympathized with the community, but maintained that the reality of the budget situation is that there is more money going out of the county than coming in.

"It's kind of a math problem," she said. "We don't have any fat to cut."

The community forum meetings are a way for Rahr to gather citizen input. She will use these comments to prioritize the services that are most important to the community. Her completed budget will be sent to the Executive Budget Office on July 7. The Executive Budget Office will re-priorities services as it sees fit and then submit its own version to the county council in mid-October.

"From September through October, council needs to hear from King County citizens," said Rahr. She encourages meeting participants to contact council members and join forces through e-mail networks.

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