Fire station staff funding looks like it's passing

OLYMPIA - In initial results, city voters appeared to be approving a measure to raise their property taxes to pay to staff the city's newest fire station.

“They’re backing it up with their support and their money, and we hope that we won’t be before the voters for another 40 years,” Fire Chief Larry Dibble said.

In early counts Tuesday night, 6,260 voters, or 56.76 percent, had voted yes on the levy, compared with 4,768, or 43.24, voting against it.

The measure would permanently raise property taxes by 25 cents on every $1,000 of assessed value. It would generate enough money to hire 13 firefighters to staff the station, which is due to open next year at 3525 Stoll Road N.E.

Voters approved a tax increase in 2008 to raise up to $16.5 million to build the station and a training center at 1305 Fones Road S.E., also scheduled to open next year. But the measure didn’t include money to pay to staff the station.

The city had forecast that it would have enough money to staff the station, but that was before the recession sapped tax revenue.

Olympia firefighters say the new station is necessary to reduce response times, which are now as high as 11 minutes, to six minutes, 90 percent of the time – the national standard.

The department has already cut spending by $1.2 million, leaving no room for additional cuts without hurting safety, according to the department.

If the measure fails, the department would move a three-firefighter ladder crew to the new station from the downtown station, Dibble has said. That would reduce coverage for the rest of Olympia.