Voters to decide fire hall's fate

FALL CITY - Despite a grim economic outlook, backers of an upcoming levy contend it is necessary and bearable to Fall City taxpayers.

The levy, which will raise $2.4 million for improvements on the fire station that serves the Fall City area, will be voted on next Tuesday by the residents who live in King County Fire Protection District 27.

Although there has been no organized opposition to the levy, some have expressed their concerns that the levy maybe too much for the area to handle.

The arguments for and against the levy boil down to growth, with backers claiming the area will continue to increase in population, while those who oppose the levy say the growth has dwindled and will not fund additional taxes.

Matt and Carolyn Brock, who both volunteered for District 27 for about 10 years, said the levy raises more questions than it answers.

"I think its opening a Pandora's box," said Carolyn Brock. "Everyone else seems to think it is a great and wonderful thing, but I don't know if we can afford it."

Matt Brock, who will step down as a District 27 fire commissioner at the end of the year, agreed.

"What are we going to do if we have to pay for more men and more engines?" he asked.

Both the Brocks maintained they are adamant supporters of the fire department and the union, being former volunteers and union members themselves. But they both questioned the feasibility of paying more taxes for the next 20 years on what they see is a shrinking district. They said the number of volunteers has decreased while the number of full-time staff has increased, adding more expenses to the district.

Tommie Brice, a fire commissioner who is up for re-election next Tuesday, said the area is growing and needs the fire station. As of now, the fire district does not have firefighter at the station 24 hours a day and the levy will provide the extra funds needed to provide that service.

"We are planning for the next 25 years," Brice said. "The people will keep coming."

Brice also dismisses any notion that the district will have to merge with another in case the funds don't come through. He said he is sure there will be enough money coming as Fall City continues to grow.

"People will keep coming to the Valley because they got nowhere else to go," Brice said. "We've got all the land."

Fire Chief Chris Connor said the district had more than 500 calls for service last year, which he said is evidence that the need for fire protection is growing.

The Brocks see that number differently, saying it should be higher. But because Fall City has no sewer to accommodate further development and neighborhoods are being annexed by cities, the number of service calls has stagnated.

"We are not growing, we are dying," Carolyn Brock said.

Connor said the economic future of the nation is unclear, but he is confident there will be enough growth to pay off the bonds.

"I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you how the future will be, but that's a luxury none of us can afford," Connor said. "But I have seen steady growth for the past 20 years."

He said new equipment, such as fire engines, would be paid for out of excess levies, on which district residents would vote. Personnel, however, is paid for from the operating budget.

Connor added that if Initiative 747 passes next week, which limits property tax increases to 1 percent without voter approval, the district would probably float a levy to pay for more personnel in the future.

He added that the district has always managed to get the best for its buck.

"We have always had one of the lowest, if not the lowest, tax rates in the county," Connor said.

* Carnation Police Services - The city is asking voters to approve a levy that would generate $108,000 a year for three years to fund existing police services.

* Medic One - Also up for a a countywide vote, is a six-year, 0.25 cent per $1,000 of assessed valuation levy for emergency services. If passed, the levy would be a continuation of an existing levy that funds the emergency medical service program Medic One for the county.

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