While the proposed merger of Fall City Fire into Eastside Fire and Rescue has failed, the fire district is working to make improvements on their own.
Proposition 1 would have merged Fire District 27, covering Fall City, into the much larger Fire District 10 which is operated by Eastside Fire and Rescue. As of Monday, April 29, the “No” vote led with 1,081 votes (53.78 percent). “Yes” votes trailed at 929 votes.
With the vote decided, Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor said the department is moving on to address the current work plan as previously scheduled. Several decisions were put on hold until the vote could take place as an approved merger would affect the planning and process behind many of the day to day management decisions.
Among some of the tasks on Connor’s list are the purchase of an aid car as well as completion of a five year financial plan. In looking at future funding and levies, Connor suggested that the district may pursue increased rates to meet the needs of the department.
Despite the merger failing and future plans remaining unchanged, Connor said the department will continue to look for ways they can improve service and progress the operations of the department.
“I don’t think the status quo is some place we can sit — we do need to move forward, and if that entails the need for additional money, that’s something to look at,” he said.
The department will also begin discussions on how they can add another firefighter staff position to the organization.
The merger was proposed as a way the fire district could improve funding, staffing and service levels. Supporters of the proposition cited decrease costs for homeowners in the district and benefits for firefighters including training opportunities and staffing levels. Opponents of the merger argued that the additional staff could be brought on without a merger, and that many of the service level benefits of a merger already existed through programs like the mutual aid agreement, which has neighboring fire departments respond to situations in other districts when available.
The proposition would have also changed the taxing structure of the district, introducing a fire benefit charge that would reduce costs for homeowners, but larger buildings and businesses would see an increase. At a formal debate held earlier last month, opponents of the merger said the district was nearly debt free and had a healthy funding reserves for the future. They were also opposed to joining their assets with District 10.
The merger would have also impacted the administration and decision making. District 27 has 3,812 registered voters as opposed to the 15,122 voters of District 10. Voters were concerned that difference would make electing representatives of their area to the board of commissioners a much harder effort.
The full list of King County’s April election results can be found online at www.kingcounty.gov/depts/elections.aspx.