Election: Fire districts would dissolve, services would stay

STANWOOD — A ballot measure for voters in the North County Regional Fire Authority has caused some confusion.

The fire authority consists of two former fire districts that merged in 2008. Under state law, those two fire districts still exist on paper. They are required to have separate meetings and separate audits.

The fire chief and the commissioners want that to change. They’re asking voters in the April 25 special election for approval to dissolve District 14 and District 18. The emergency services and the management won’t change, Fire Chief John Cermak said.

“People are asking if we are losing our fire department,” he said. “No, we’re not losing our fire department.”

The fire authority is based in Stanwood and serves about 105 square miles, including the areas of Warm Beach and north of Arlington. About 17,000 people live in its boundaries, not counting the city of Stanwood, which contracts with the fire authority for service. The ballot measure only was sent to those who live in Districts 14 and 18. There are more than 11,000 registered voters in those districts.

A mailer was sent about a week ago. It included language about what might happen to the elections for fire commissioners. Some mistakenly thought the ballot measure was designed to change the election process immediately. Currently, commissioners are elected from each district. In the future, that could be changed to at-large elections. That hasn’t been decided, though, and that kind of change doesn’t require a public vote, Cermak said.

Dissolving the old districts is meant to remove “unnecessary and costly administrative” requirements, he said. “We’re not changing any service levels.”

As of Friday morning, the mailer had prompted more than a dozen phone calls to the fire department. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out in about three weeks.

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

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