North Olympia voters will decide fire department’s fate and tax rate

Voters in north Olympia will see two ballot measures Nov. 4 regarding their fire service.

However, the first proposition’s fate depends on the second proposition’s approval.

Proposition 1 asks voters to authorize a merger between North Olympia Fire District 7 and South Bay Fire District 8. 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 Boston Harbor. District 8 is bordered to the east by Marvin Road Northeast and Sandy Point.

If approved, Proposition 1 would dissolve District 7. The newly merged fire district would serve about 13,000 people, and the merger would take effect in January.

Proposition 2 will ask the nearly 4,200 residents in District 7 to raise their tax for fire service. The ballot measure would authorize a levy rate that matches District 8’s rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. District 7 residents currently pay $1.33 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Both districts agreed to merge on the condition that District 7 matches District 8’s rate. If approved, the new rate will take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

South Bay Fire Chief Brian VanCamp said he would serve as chief of the combined department. VanCamp told The Olympian there would be no layoffs with the merger.

District 7 needs the merger to save on administration costs, said Milt Harper, chairman of the District 7 board of fire commissioners. Harper also said his district has struggled to build a solid volunteer base to support the four career firefighters on its staff. Ray Harry has been serving as interim chief, and will return to retirement after the election, Harper said.

“If we stand alone, we are going to need a new chief and secretary,” said Harper on what would happen if voters reject the merger in November. “There are obvious benefits of integrating. We can run more effective and efficiently.”

No opposing statement was submitted for either proposition in the Thurston County Voters Pamphlet.

A community forum will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at the North Olympia Fire Station, 5046 Boston Harbor Road NE. Fire officials from both districts will be available to answer questions from the public.