By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor
MILL CREEK — The Mill Creek City Council voted unanimously May 25 in support of an emergency medical services levy and urged voters to follow its lead when casting ballots in the Aug. 17 primary.
The proposal asks taxpayers to shell out 45 cents per $1,000 assessed value for a six-year EMS levy. The owner of a $400,000 home would pay $180, more than twice the current rate.
The increase would add personnel to staff a three-man engine and two-man medic unit at Station 76, 1020 152nd Place SE, Mill Creek.
Mayor Mike Todd said more personnel would improve emergency service and lower response times.
Todd said having firefighters be unavailable for 24 percent of dispatched fire alarms last year was too high. He urged fire officials to find the root cause to provide more efficient service.
Councilman Terry Ryan said the bottom line is the city needs additional emergency personnel.
“We need to get response times down,” Ryan said. “This is about response times and providing the best possible service to citizens.”
Troy Smith, Fire District 7 union president, said the need for emergency services in Mill Creek has risen with the city’s population.
“People feel this is long overdue,” said Smith, who served on a committee in favor of the levy.
Mill Creek resident Timothy Austin, who served on an opposing committee, wrote in an e-mail to the council that the levy increase was too much to ask of voters during these difficult economic times.
Fire Chief Rick Eastman said voters will see a huge return on their investment if they support the levy.
“You will see, come election time, support from the community for your decision,” Eastman told council members.
Last month the council voted unanimously to include the proposed EMS levy on the Aug. 17 primary ballot. The city contracts for fire and EMS services through Fire District 7 at Station 76. The city’s current EMS levy expires this year. Property owners are currently charged 18 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or $72 for the owner of a $400,000 home.
The average base salary for a top-step firefighter is $79,416 and $55,596 for a new recruit, Fire District 7 spokeswoman Autumn Waite said. Hiring eight more firefighters is expected to cost, on average, $769,960 per year, including salaries, benefits and training.