Regional fire plan on the back burner

EVERETT — Voters won’t see a proposed regional fire authority in south Snohomish County on the ballot this year after all.

Getting about a half-dozen cities and two fire districts in south county all to agree on one plan just didn’t shake out.

All of the participating agencies except for Fire District 1, Mountlake Terrace and Brier have dropped out of the talks.

Those still involved put a six-month hold on the plan pending new financial figures.

“Right now it does not appear to work where everybody can save money and either have the same or improved service,” Fire District 1 commissioner Jim Kenny said Friday.

The remaining agencies plan to meet again in September, after the county releases updated property tax revenue projections. Fire departments rely on property taxes for the bulk of their budgets. The initial fire authority plan, including financial figures, was drawn up when most of south county was expected to participate.

Leaders from almost every city and fire district between Everett and the King-Snohomish county line started talking about forming the fire authority in spring 2011. If approved by voters, the fire authority would create a new government body to levy taxes and provide fire protection and emergency medical services in affected areas.

Snohomish County has only one regional fire authority so far, the North County Regional Fire Authority, based in Warm Beach.

The south county fire authority could be on the ballot in 2014, or it could end up not happening at all, Kenny said. A fire authority isn’t the only way to regionalize services, he said.

“Where do we go from here? That’s what we’ll have to see come September,” he said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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