Letter | No problem to fix with fire district merger

Dear Editor,

I volunteered for the Fire District 27 Consolidation Evaluation Committee a year ago, new to Fall City and with no knowledge of the department.  I ended up being the primary spokesperson when we shared our initial information with the commissioners, and then at the two public meetings. 

Our committee was created to evaluate options for the district, but it was hard to identify what problem we were trying to fix.  Eventually I figured out that the Commissioners didn’t want to rely on voted levies every 4 years that required 60% approval and the union wanted 3-person career firefighter staffing 24×7 rather relying on volunteers to supplement their nighttime staffing.  

I don’t understand how these are “problems”.  Our levies have passed with approval percentages any jurisdiction would be ecstatic about.  And our volunteer program has a long history of dedicated and well-trained firefighters that were a valuable component of our 98% staffing at the 3-person standard in 2017.  Since then we’ve hired an 11th firefighter and budgeted for a 12th.  And we always have mutual aid that all districts rely on for back-up and specialized crews.  So what problem are we fixing?

I moved to Fall City because we wanted to be part of a community.  Our businesses and the neighborhood that grew up around them are the core of our community.  If we merge with Fire District 10 their Fire Benefit Charge will disproportionately tax our businesses.  If we lose the businesses, we lose our community.  It’s that simple.

I might save $135 – might….  And I still feel so strongly that the merger is bad for Fall City that I volunteered to write the statement against Proposition 1 in the voters pamphlet.  There’s no problem to fix and a big downside if we merge.  I encourage you to vote No.

Nora Hightower, Fall City resident

[Letters published do not represent the views of Living Snoqualmie. To submit letters on ballot initiatives or candidates email info@livingsnoqualme.com]

Comments

  1. Josh Yancey says

    Another day, another letter full of inaccuracies that need to be corrected or clarified.

    There are storefronts in Fall City that have been vacant for 10+ years, under the current fire taxing system. The lack of an adequate wastewater system is what holds back the Fall City business community. Not a couple extra dollars that a business might have to pay in a more fairly applied fire taxing system. Despite what this letter says, the business are not “the” Fall City community. They are welcomed and respected, but they are they are simply one part of it. Nothing more or less. Several of the business owners don’t live in town. The citizens who live here are the true community, and they all benefit from this merger. As do the businesses, whether they would pay more or less.

    The Fall City Fire Department has not “budgeted for a 12th [Firefighter],” except maybe to come to the conclusion that it’s not feasible under the current budget. That’s a blatant falsehood.

    Levies have passed so far, sure. One of those persons opposed to the merger is in the insurance business. I wonder how he would respond when one of his customers told him, “I’ve never had an accident before, so why do I need insurance?” We can’t continue to gamble our department’s future on these levies, nor hold it back from progress. The fire department can achieve numerous specific and measurable service improvements with this merger, and can do so at a savings to the taxpayers. Some of these improvements would simply get the department to service levels achieved virtually everywhere else in King County. If the department was to remain standalone, and it wanted to achieve these same improvements, it would have to ask for a significant amount of more money from the voters at the next levy. Why pass up improvement at a reduced cost? Why put ourselves in a position to have to ask for more money? The generosity of some voters might understandably be tested. Tax fatigue is a real thing.

    Volunteer firefighters do not have the same experience, training or certifications that the career firefighters have. That’s an unarguable fact. They are valued members of the department, and their contributions are welcome and appreciated, but it is not suitable to consider them as true 3rd firefighter staffing. The narrative that they are as equally skilled or experienced as the career firefighters needs to end, because it’s not true. Numerous volunteer firefighters have stated this publicly in meetings.

    The letter writer should vote any way she sees fit. But she shouldn’t share falsehoods in an attempt to convince others to vote like her. The facts bear out that this merger makes sense for all of us.

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