By Rikki King
Talks of forming a regional fire authority in south Snohomish County are moving along.
In the spring, seven cities and two fire districts started meeting regularly to explore the idea. They estimated they could have a plan ready for the ballot in 2013.
A regional fire authority is a relatively new way of providing fire service over a larger area, instead of having individual fire departments. Snohomish County already has one RFA — the North County Regional Fire Authority, which is working on an agreement to absorb the city of Stanwood.
It’s been slow going in south county, with the talks mostly marked by the kind of fire service issues that don’t make much sense outside of the public-safety sphere. Add in politics at each individual agency, a tough economy, and budget/election season. There hasn’t been much to write about for awhile.
Some key pivot points could be ahead.
As early as the first week of January, RFA subcommittees are expected to present their plans for how the organization would be financed and how they would determine the level of service — aka how resources such as firefighters and fire engines would be deployed.
The decision also looms on whether Bothell will join the talks, RFA planning committee spokeswoman Leslie Hynes said.
Bothell’s annexation plan failed to win voter approval in November, but Bothell already was considering joining the talks, city officials said.*
Bothell officials are expected to meet with RFA planning committee leaders and discuss the topic at City Council, Hynes said.
Those already in the talks will have to vote whether or not to let Bothell in.
Meanwhile, this last round of elections could shake up the group’s organization.
Each agency has three elected officials on the planning committee. Former Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper was chair. Because Cooper wasn’t re-elected, former vice chair and Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith is serving as the group’s leader for now.
After New Year’s, the group needs to decide how it wants to be governed moving forward, Hynes said. Some cities will have to appoint new members based on their own election results.
With all this going on, there still has been no formal show of hands for which cities or fire districts likely would sign on for the proposed RFA when the time comes.
The group hopes to adopt a firm set of plans in March, Hynes said.
Each city council and fire district board then would be asked to pass a resolution of support.
That likely would determine the makeup of the RFA if it is eventually approved by voters.
For more info, visit the RFA planning website.
*This post has been edited since its original version.