Fire district levy lid lift gets support at hearing

A public hearing Thursday evening on whether to approve a levy lid lift for Lacey Fire District 3 drew mostly support among the 30 people who attended the meeting.

If approved by the district’s board of fire commissioners at its next meeting, the lid lift will be placed on the August primary ballot.

That meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. May 1 at the fire district headquarters, 1231 Franz St. SE, Lacey.

The district is calling for a levy lid lift to support and maintain services at Station 35, the fire station on Willamette Drive in Hawks Prairie, which is a growing part of the city. Current funding for that station is provided by a two-year federal grant totaling $2.5 million that is set to expire in March 2015.

The district plans to apply for a grant extension, but there’s no guarantee that it will be approved, thus increasing the need for the levy lid lift, said Fire Chief Steve Brooks.

The station has closed once before due to lack of funding. Without the station, average emergency and non-emergency response times in the area increase, Brooks said.

If it makes the August ballot and is approved by voters, it would raise the fire district levy to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or another $22 a year for a homeowner with a single-family residence valued at $200,000.

The current levy rate is $1.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The increase to $1.50 would raise about $1 million to $1.2 million for the district, Brooks said.

Those who spoke in favor of the ballot measure included John Christiansen, a former district fire commissioner, and Dick Sovde, who serves on the 15-member citizens advisory committee that makes recommendations to the fire commission board.

Commissioner Frank Kirkbride announced at the meeting that the citizens advisory committee unanimously recommended to the commission that they support the ballot measure.

Commissioner Dennis Jones expressed his support for it, too.

But Lacey resident Ken Balsley pressed the commission, asking what assurances the commission could make that voters could support and what would be done with the extra money if both the grant is extended and the levy lid lift passes.

The levy lid lift previously failed in 2008 and 2011, Brooks said.

In response to Balsley’s first question, commissioner Judy Wilson said the commissioners have done more public outreach, including attending homeowner association meetings.

“I think we’ve been very intentional about that,” she said.

The commission said they have made no determination about the scenario in which the grant is extended and lid lift passes. Kirkbride said later that the commission and the district both need to signal their spending intent.