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Fire bond on slow track

3:53 pm December 11th, 2013

South Pierce Fire and Rescue will wait until next summer to re-run a facilities bond measure, if at all.
In the wake of the bond’s failure in last month’s general election to gain the minimum 60 percent approval from voters required for it to pass, the fire district’s officials are trying to figure out their next step in trying to meet the needs the ballot measure would have filled.
If the district commissioners put a bond before voters again next year, it would likely be during the primary election in August, according to fire chief Bob Vellias.
To modernize its facilities and bolster overall service, the district asked voters in November to approve a $7.6 million bond. If it had passed, property taxes from within the district would have paid for a new, centralized headquarters station, generators for emergency power at four stations, and remodeling of facilities districtwide.
The first bond measure in the 60-year history of the district received a 58.1 percent approval vote (2,530 yes to 1,820 no), but fell short of the 60 percent supermajority.
The district’s commissioners and administration “were disappointed with the outcome.. The supermajority can be a very tough number to achieve,” Vellias said. “We are going to look at all our options next year and rely on the advice of our citizen committee” and feedback from the public before any decisions are made whether to submit another bond measure.
He said the district “still needs a long-term solution for our building needs. As our population increases along with calls for service, we need a long term plan to centralize our services.”
Many of the seven fire stations are cramped and barely adequate for the district’s seven fire engines and 23 career firefighters, plus volunteers. Modernized facilities would save money and increase efficiency, officials said.
Last year, the district handled 2,341 9-1-1 calls. Of those, 75 percent were medical emergencies.
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 within 138 square miles. The district includes unincorporated areas outside Eatonville, Clear Lake, Ohop Lake, La Grande, Roy, Lacamas, Harts Lake and McKenna.
Three stations, including the current headquarters, are in the Eatonville area. The other four are in the Roy area.

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