Marysville quits fire-department merger talks

Mayor Jon Nehring notified Arlington of the decision in a letter dated Jan. 10.

MARYSVILLE — The city of Marysville is abandoning talks with Arlington about merging fire departments.

The two agencies, along with Fire District 12, have been meeting since 2016. They were considering the formation of a regional fire authority, a new government body that would levy its own taxes and provide fire protection and emergency medical services.

Snohomish County has two fire authorities so far, one in Stanwood and another recently formed in south county.

Public safety consumes a huge portion of local government spending, and the costs are rising. Proponents of consolidations say they save resources and improve services, but the negotiations often snag on politics and local control.

In Marysville, the city has a long-term contract with Fire District 12 to jointly operate the Marysville Fire District. The City Council has indicated plans to continue separate talks with District 12 about what happens next, said Connie Mennie, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.

Mayor Jon Nehring notified Arlington of the decision in a letter dated Jan. 10.

The letter was shared with Arlington’s council members, said Kristin Banfield, a city spokeswoman. The topic is likely to come up at a council workshop on Monday, she said. Arlington officials will continue to explore their options for working with others around them, she said.

Leaders at the Marysville Fire District still believe a regional fire authority is the best option, Fire Chief Martin McFalls said in a prepared statement. They anticipate additional conversation, he said.

The Marysville firefighters union, Local 3219, also supports a fire authority, said Dean Shelton, the secretary-treasurer. He believes it would bring a more sustainable funding model. Additional firefighters are needed, along with fire station improvements, he said, citing the rapid growth in Marysville and Smokey Point, which includes parts of Marysville and Arlington.

“The RFA should be about better service to the community and less about governance,” he said.

Under state law, forming a fire authority requires a vote from the elected leaders of the involved agencies, followed by a public ballot measure. This coming May was supposed to be the deadline for Marysville and Arlington to submit an item for the August primary election.

The Arlington Fire Department’s budget in 2017 was $6.4 million, including emergency medical services. The Marysville Fire District was budgeted at $18.4 million last year.

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

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