Monroe, Clearview fire districts will begin merger Jan. 1

CLEARVIEW — Two Snohomish County fire districts will start to merge Jan. 1.

Under a new contract, Fire District 3 in Monroe and District 7 in Clearview will combine administrations and share a fire chief.

The contract runs through 2016 and doesn’t change firefighter staffing levels. The districts next year are supposed to work on a permanent merger and eventually become one agency.

The next phase of the merger likely would require approval from voters, at least in the Monroe district, depending on the final details. The earliest voters might see a ballot measure would be August.

The two fire districts share a border along the Snohomish River. Together they will cover 115 square miles and employ more than 130 firefighters. Their governing boards approved the new contract earlier this month.

Clearview’s Fire Chief Gary Meek will become the chief of the combined agency, and current Monroe chief Jamie Silva will become one of three assistant chiefs. The chiefs’ salaries aren’t changing.

The merger is driven by a desire to provide service at a regional level, without concerns of borders and “turf,” Meek said.

“The bigger the area you’re looking at, the better you can plan the resources,” he said.

Under the new agreement, crews will stay at the same stations with the same response areas, as governed by the labor contracts, he said.

Both districts have made compromises to find common ground, Meek said. The chiefs are focused on future savings, and in 2016 plan to share positions in areas such as finance, human resources and fire prevention.

“It’s more cost avoidance than it is cost savings,” Meek said.

Meanwhile, the two firefighters unions already have consolidated, and the crews are in support of ongoing talks with neighboring districts about sharing resources, Union President Michael McConnell said. He sees the fire service moving away from the historical system of myriad smaller districts.

“Collectively we’re pushing to see a more efficient model with less overhead,” McConnell said. “We’re definitely taking a longer view.”

The two fire boards will remain separate legal entities. Joint board meetings will rotate between Monroe and Clearview, according to the legal agreement.

Fire District 7 also remains in negotiations with the city of Mill Creek. That city’s fire service contract with the district runs out after 2016.

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

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