Gold Bar, Stanwood fire departments seek to solidify services

GOLD BAR — Two Snohomish County fire departments have measures on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

Fire District 26, in Gold Bar, is seeking $950,000 in bonds for three projects related to buildings and equipment. The North County Regional Fire Authority, based in Stanwood, is asking voters to make permanent its emergency medical services levy. Otherwise, the levy requires a vote every six years. Ballots were mailed out last week.

The proposed bonds for Gold Bar would cost property owners an estimated 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For example, the owner of a $200,000 house would pay about $44 a year.

Fire District 26 would use some of the money to purchase a 1.4-acre property next to Station 54 along U.S. 2. The property would be used to create a training center, Fire Chief Eric Andrews said. For now, the department’s training takes place in the parking lot. The property they have in mind has an assessed value of $111,400, county records show.

Gold Bar has no full-time firefighters and relies on volunteer and part-time crews. The district offers training and experience to draw those folks, many of whom are later hired full-time at other departments, Andrews said.

“We believe by having the best training possible, more people will want to come to Gold Bar and work in that part-time, volunteer-type environment,” he said.

The second part of the bond is to add sleeping quarters at Fire Station 53, at 501 Lewis Ave, in Gold Bar.

“We want to be able to staff that station at night in the future, because our call loads are increasing,” Andrews said. “Right now pretty much everything at night comes from the other station.” The third piece of the bond would replace a 1996 fire engine.

Meanwhile, the North County Regional Fire Authority wants to make permanent its current medical services levy, which collects about 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The levy draws an estimated $935,880 a year. The majority of the district’s calls are for medical emergencies, not fires.

“The EMS levy stabilizes funding for our most widely used service,” Fire Chief John Cermak said.

The proposed levy change will help the district serve a growing community with an aging population, Cermak said. The revenue goes toward medical staffing and equipment, including new, potentially life-saving technologies. Each time they run a six-year levy, it costs up to $22,500 just for the election costs, he said.

“The need and the impact for EMS isn’t going to change,” he said. “We keep seeing increases in call loads on an annual basis. It’s not going away. EMS is not going away.”

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

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