EVERETT — As of Oct. 1, southwest Snohomish County will have a new fire department.
That’s when the merger of the Lynnwood Fire Department and Fire District 1 becomes final. Voters approved the change in the August primary election.
The new agency has been named “South Snohomish County Fire &Rescue.” It is an independent government body that’s called a regional fire authority. One already exists in Stanwood and another is being considered for Marysville and Arlington.
About 250,000 people live in the new fire authority’s service area. They should not notice a difference in emergency care, Interim Fire Chief Brad Reading said.
“They’re still going to get the same great service they’ve been getting,” he said. “Same rigs, same people. We’re just different governance now.”
A number of contracts and agreements need to be approved to complete the merger, including those governing property, equipment and tax collection.
As part of the ballot measure, voters agreed for the authority to tax property owners in its boundaries a fire levy. The rate is $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed value.
Eventually, Lynnwood’s EMS levy and District 1’s EMS levy will be up for renewal. At some point, the authority would ask voters for its own emergency medical services tax to replace those.
The authority’s governing board consists of the five current District 1 commissioners along with two Lynnwood council members. They will oversee as many as 300 full-time employees. District 1 and Lynnwood already share management under a contract. Their 2017 budgets combined surpassed $57 million.
The merger isn’t the only change ahead.
Reading is planning to retire early next year, prompting the need for a new chief. The district’s board recently decided to make an offer to candidate Bruce Stedman, who has been the fire chief in Arlington since 2010.
The previous chief for District 1 and Lynnwood resigned last year. He had been paid about $140,500 annually.
The fire authority’s administration will be housed in the current District 1 headquarters near Mariner High School. It will inherit the district’s contracts to serve Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace.
In Arlington, officials say they are talking about a leadership plan if Stedman is hired for the fire authority.
Reporter Caitlin Tompkins contributed to this story.