Big merger of Monroe and Clearview fire districts could be on ballot

CLEARVIEW — Two Snohomish County fire districts are taking the next step in their relationship.

On Thursday, Fire District 3 in Monroe and District 7 in Clearview announced a plan to seek voter approval for a merger later this year. They already have consolidated administrations and share board meetings.

The way the law works, the Monroe district would be absorbed by the Clearview district. If approved by voters, the new super-sized agency would provide fire protection and emergency medical services to about 107,000 people living on 110 square miles.

It would oversee an annual budget of about $29 million.

The new agency also might get a new name.

“We asked the employees to put together a list of names. We’ll go through those,” Monroe Fire Chief Jamie Silva said. “We haven’t made a decision. We’re looking at the options.”

If it all works out, the merger would mark a major achievement in the regionalization of public safety in a county where fire districts and cities often duke it out over territory, money and power. Numerous fire department consolidation talks have fallen through all over the county over the past decade.

The legal process of the merger is complicated, Silva said. At this point, the Monroe district’s commissioners have sent the Clearview district a petition for the merger. The Clearview commissioners are expected to vote on accepting the petition in March.

Voters likely will see a ballot measure in the primary election in August.

The proposal needs a majority of the votes cast to pass, Silva said. If approved, the merger could start as soon as October, he said.

The changes should make for a new agency with less duplication and overhead, Silva said.

“By combining, it makes it more efficient,” he said.

According to his math, property owners in the Monroe district will see their fire taxes drop about 6.7 percent. No change is predicted for property owners in the Clearview district.

The two fire districts share a border along the Snohomish River and together would employ more than 130 firefighters. The two firefighters unions merged last year.

Elsewhere in the county, the city of Lynnwood and Fire District 1 continue talks of a possible partnership. Fire District 7 also remains in contract negotiations with the city of Mill Creek. That city’s fire service contract runs out this year.

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