A request from South Pierce Fire and Rescue to modernize its fire stations has received a favorable response from voters, but not enough so far.
The fire district’s $7.6 million bond had a 58.4 percent approval vote in early returns after the close of voting Tuesday in the general election. It needs a 60 percent super-majority to pass. About 1,000 votes remained uncounted Tuesday night.
Also required for passage is a minimum of 3,436 total votes either for or agailnst the measure, and it’s met that requirement with 3,569.
Tax collections over the life of the bond would pay for a new, centralized headquarters station, generators for emergency power at four stations, and remodeling of facilities districtwide.
This is the first bond measure the district has requested since it formed in 1953. Fire chief Bob Vellias has said the district, which is debt-free, has been a good steward of public money and has gotten by as long as it can with sub-standard stations.
District officials say the stations – including one in the Eatonville area that’s 45 years old and another in Roy that’s 74 years old – have become obsolete as the district has grown in personnel and equipment..
For an owner of a $170,000 home, the annual tax bill from the bond would be $59.50, according to officials. .
The district owns land where a new headquarters station would be built. The facility would also serve as a community center and emergency warming shelter.
South Pierce Fire and Rescue’s 23 career firefighters, plus volunteers, provide fire and emergency medical services to a combined population of more than 22,000 in a region covering 138 square miles. The service area includes Clear Lake, Ohop Lake, La Grande, Roy, Lacamas, Harts Lake, McKenna and locales outside Eatonville.
The firefighting equipment includes seven fire engines to go along with seven stations. Three stations, including the headquarters, are in the Eatonville area. The other four are in the Roy area.
Last year, the district handled 2,341 9-1-1 calls. Of those, 75 percent were medical emergencies.
The district’s commissioners sent the bond to the ballot at the urging of a citizens committee whose members toured fire stations to review the proposed need for new facilities.