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Levy passing, but votes needed

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FALL CITY - Residents of King County Fire Protection District 27 are overwhelmingly approving a bond levy to refurbish the firehall in Fall City, but more votes are needed to validate the measure.

As of Friday, the $2.4 million levy lacked the votes to be validated, but Julie Anne Kemps, superintendent of elections for King County, estimated that a total of 1,600 to 1,700 ballots will probably be cast, which would give the levy voted on in the Nov. 6 general election enough to ensure the district can upgrade its facility.

The last count released before the Valley Record's publication deadline - Friday, Nov. 9 - had more than 70 percent of the votes cast approving the levy. But only a little more than 1,000 ballots had been tallied, and at least 1,348 votes are needed for the levy to be valid.

Kemps said there were still plenty of votes left to count, with as many as 28,000 ballots coming through her office on Friday, most with valid postmarks. She estimated the Friday total contained about 65 percent of the absentee votes, which accounts for a majority of the votes cast in the election.

Fire district officials were hesitant to declare victory until the official results are certified by the King County Records and Elections Division on Nov. 21.

"At this point, we just have to wait and see if we get the 1,348 total votes necessary to validate," said District 27 Fire Chief Chris Connor. "I am extremely pleased with the percentage of voters who are in favor of the issue. I personally think it is going to be close."

If the fire levy passes, the bonds would be sold this year and detailed design preparation of specifications on the firehall would begin immediately. The phased-in construction, which would add more space and quarters, enabling the station to have around-the-clock firefighters, would start in 2003 and construction would be expected to finish in Spring 2004.

The levy would increase property taxes on every $1,000 of assessed valuation by about $1.12.

If the levy fails, fire officials have stated they will try again to get it passed.

"Our commissioners have not indicated for sure what they will do," Connor said. "However, the improvements are still needed and the need is not going to go away."

District 27 Fire Commissioner Kevin Hauglie said that although the commissioners would have to meet to make any further decisions, he is confident they would try to get the levy on the ballot and that the number of calls at the station warrant the levy.

"The department staff and the community we provide service to are in need of the improvements," Hauglie said. "The trends are that the call volume and the demands on us are being increased each year. The cost of the improvements will most assuredly be higher as the timeline moves forward."

Other public-safety levies drew mixed results. According to Friday's vote totals, the city of Carnation's $108,000 levy to fund current police services had not garnered enough votes to be validated or won the necessary 60 percent "yes" votes. The levy had won 190 votes, or 54.6 percent, out of 348 cast.

The Medic One levy to fund county emergency services was on track to be approved for another year, winning 80.3 percent of the vote.

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