Fire District 7 voters to decide fate of merger

Staff writerMarch 17, 2014 

Map of the affected areas in the proposed fire district merger.

MAP COURTESY OF SOUTH BAY FIRE

The South Bay Fire District 8 and the North Olympia Fire District 7 are planning to merge, but voters in District 7 will ultimately decide whether to combine the two county fire departments.

Fire commissioners from District 7 approved a petition in February to merge with District 8. Reasons for the merger include more financial and operational efficiency, according to the petition. The goal is to merge the two departments by Jan. 1, 2015.

Both districts are bordered by 26th Avenue Northeast to the south and by Puget Sound to the north. District 7 encompasses the land west of Libby Road, including the Boston Harbor area. District 8 is bordered to the east by Marvin Road Northeast and Sandy Point.

In the November election, voters in District 7 will decide whether to merge the two fire departments and dissolve their district.

South Bay Fire Chief Brian VanCamp said he would serve as chief of the combined department, and added that no layoffs would occur.

With the addition of nearly 5,000 residents from District 7, the new department would serve about 13,000 people, VanCamp said.

Taxpayers in the two districts pay different levy rates for fire service. In District 7, the cost is $1.34 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while District 8 pays $1.50 per $1,000. If the merger is approved by voters in November, the new rate for all taxpayers in the expanded district would fall between the rates of the two districts, VanCamp said. The new rate would take effect Jan. 1, 2016, he said.

Commissioners for both boards would be combined into a single six-member board to manage the new district.

A future measure will go before voters to create a board that consists of five elected positions, according to the departments’ Emergency Services Integration Plan. The plan notes that a larger district creates higher expectations for salary and employee benefits. The merger would also reduce administrative costs and improve purchasing power, according to the plan.

Two public information sessions will be at 10 a.m. March 22 and 5 p.m. March 25 at the South Bay Elementary School gym, 3845 Sleater-Kinney Road.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian

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