I’ll be voting against that South Whidbey fire district levy increase scheduled for an August vote, and here’s why.
Though I admire the dedication and service of our local fire district and volunteers, the district continues to display an insatiable appetite to create a real estate empire of palatial stations around here which defies common sense and our community needs and priorities.
Over the past 20 years we’ve been building fire stations like crazy at substantial costs, such as new ones at Saratoga, $350,000 in 1998 dollars; Freeland, at $1 million in 2002 dollars; Langley, $1.5 million in 2008; and now the recent Bayview granddaddy, for more than $6 million in 2018.
Thrown in, of course, are new trucks, a questionable half million dollar fire boat and Clinton station remodel. That latest behemoth, the Bayview admin building, dwarfs every building around here, and why was it even needed? Recall that the previous new Freeland admin building, of 2002, is only five miles away and ample for current needs. What’s to become of that past glory?
Where did all this money come from? According to the fire district, in 1990 their revenue was $600,000, which jumped to $2.3 million in 2012. This pencils out to a 383 percent increase over these 22 years, or $105,000 per year. Such figures would make Amazon blush. Excessive? Yes, I’d like these fire folks to show some current actual revenue figures with historical perspective.
Let’s face it, fires are uncommon these days due to better building codes and considerably more efficient heating systems. To protect public health and safety we need medical facilities and ambulatory services, which are already provided by our local health department only a half mile away from that new admin building. EMTs are important but they sure don’t need a fleet of those big shiny trucks to get around.
We’re battling a pandemic, of which destruction will be far eclipsed by climate change in the coming years. So, where’s the solar panels on those palaces or any effort to address this looming challenge? COVID-19 requires medical facilities, not sumptuous fire stations filled with who knows what.
We have a homeless problem, yet our resources are used to shelter fire equipment. Can we even have a public meeting in that building, we paid for?
Until the fire district shows some empire building restraint and justification, I’ll take that $90 increase in my property tax and donate it to more efficient and needed local efforts which reflect the values and needs of this community.