By Rikki King Herald writer
LYNNWOOD — City leaders are seriously considering a contract for fire protection service.
Lynnwood Mayor Don Gough on May 7 was expected to ask City Council members for permission to start preliminary negotiations with Snohomish County Fire District 1. The two agencies have been talking for months about ways to combine services.
The possibility of a fire contract is a major policy question for Lynnwood, Gough said. Lynnwood now spends roughly $9 million a year on its fire department.
The talk comes at a time when officials in South Snohomish County have been busy rethinking how to provide firefighting and emergency medical service. With rising costs and sagging revenues from property taxes, Lynnwood is not alone in struggling to pay the bills.
Since early 2011, seven South County cities and two fire districts have been talking about forming a regional fire authority, a plan that could take years. Other partnership and merger talks are happening as well.
A proposed contract with Fire District 1 would need to ensure a quality level of service for Lynnwood, Gough said.
His office already has briefed the council president and vice president about the issue, Gough said. He also has halted talks with Fire District 1 until council members give clear direction about what they’d like to do.
“This policy issue, we haven’t really raised this, so we anticipate there being a lot of public inquiry,” he said.
Fire District 1 encircles the city of Lynnwood, and the two agencies share more than 10 miles of border, district commissioner Richard Schrock said May 4.
Together, the city and the district could streamline services among the fire stations in that area, Schrock said.
“We look forward to talking with them about whatever they would be interested in discussing with us in terms of jointly working together and sharing resources to serve the people better in both of our jurisdictions,” he said.
Fire District 1 is Snohomish County’s largest fire district, serving most of unincorporated southwest county, in addition to contracted fire service in Edmonds, Brier, Mountlake Terrace and Woodway.
In general, cities that decide to explore a fire service contract spend months in negotiations before anything becomes final.