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North Whidbey Fire District seeks less this time

Emphasis placed on equipment

At a special Wednesday meeting of the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue District, commissioners gave their approval to proceed with a resolution asking voters to increase the district’s tax levy, but not by as much as last time.

Commissioners will put the measure on the November ballot. A similar measure was soundly defeated in February with more that 70 percent voting to turn down the proposal.

The February measure would have increased the levy to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. But on the November proposal, that amount has been scaled back.

“What we want to do is return the level of the levy to what it was in 2004 and that amount was 93 cents per $1,000,” Fire Chief Marv Koorn said.

Right now the district is receiving 60.2 cents per $1,000, so the level of the requested increase is just under 33 cents.

If approved, the levy would put an additional $700,000 per year into the fire district’s coffers.

“We need this money for us to be able to continue the same level of service we’ve been providing,” Koorn said.

The district plans to use the money to replace old breathing equipment, required for firefighters when they enter burning buildings. There is no way for the breathing equipment to be repaired or upgraded and all of it will have to be replaced within the next four years.

In addition, approval of the lid lift will allow the district to continue with its vehicle maintenance and replacement programs.

The district also has plans in the works for doing upgrades and replacing some of its older fire stations.

Commissioner Bruce Carman said he thought that right now, the buildings should be a “minor concern” for the district.

“What we need to focus on is the equipment we need,” he said.

Koorn said it is important that the district be able to replace equipment to maintain the level of present service so that the insurance rating remains the same.

“Right now, we are at a six rating,” he said. “If we should slip to say an eight rating, where we were at one time, insurance bills for property owners would go up.”

Koorn said he asked his insurance carrier what would happen if the rating went from six to eight. In that case, the owner of a house valued at $300,000 would see his yearly insurance bill increased by $146.

Koorn said the levy lift lid would cost the owner of a $300,000 home only $98.40 per year.

Chairman T.J. Lamont said the district needs to raise some money and put together a group of people including members of the firefighters association and other interested parties to support the levy and get the word out to the voters.

The next step for the district is to put the resolution in writing and deliver it to the county by Aug. 12, so it will be able to be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot.

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