Fire District 23 officials hope the second time will be the charm for a levy they say is critical to paying for its fire protection and medical services in the Ashford, Elbe and Alder areas.
Proposition 1 asks voters in the district to renew the district’s existing property levy at a higher rate – $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation instead of the current $1.03. District officials have noted that the tax isn’t new.
Voters turned it down in the primary election in August, though not by much. The no votes outnumbered the yeses by five (163 to 158). A total on either side over 50 percent is enough for the measure to pass or fail.
The district’s commissioners decided before the primary that if it failed, the proposition would be submitted to voters again in the general election.
Without voter approval of the levy, the district faces reducing its fire protection and emergency medical services, according to officials.
The fire district has applied for a federal grant that would cover salaries and benefits of the fire chief and batallion chief positions for 2013 and 2014. The funds would come from federal stimulus money that’s earmarked for preventing layoffs of firefighters and police officers because of budget cuts.
A decision by federal officials on District 23’s request is expected by December.
The approximately 67 square miles served by the district has about 2,500 residents and stretches to Mount Rainier National Park. Its 24-hour coverage is provided through four fire stations, 18 fire trucks and other apparatus, 26 volunteer firefighters and three paid staff members. The latter include chief Garry Olson, a batallion chief and a part-time administrative aide.
The fire stations are in Ashford, Elbe and Alder in Pierce County, and in the Big Creek area of Lewis County. The latter is served by District 23 on a contract basis.