A firefighter called to the shore during the Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue’s annual Water Rescue Academy on the Skykomish River on May 5, 2022, in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A firefighter called to the shore during the Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue’s annual Water Rescue Academy on the Skykomish River on May 5, 2022, in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish Regional Fire asks voters for two more commissioners

The district currently has seven commissioners, but it can keep only five. A Feb. 14 special election could change that.

MONROE — Voters will decide if Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue will maintain its seven-member board of commissioners, despite current law only providing for five members, in a special election Feb. 14.

The district provides service to Lake Stevens, Monroe, Maltby, Clearview and a portion of unincorporated south Snohomish County. It covers about 180,000 people across 140 square miles, according to its website.

The district took shape through several mergers between smaller fire districts in recent years. In 2016, voters in Monroe’s Fire District 3 approved joining forces with the Clearview-based Fire District 7. Both original districts had five elected commissioners, Snohomish Regional Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien said.

To bring the total down in accordance with a state law allowing fire districts to have three-, five-, seven- or nine-member boards, half of the combined 10 commissioners were allowed to “term out,” O’Brien said.

By the time the Lake Stevens-area District 8 voted to merge with District 7 in 2019, six commissioners remained. District 8 brought three commissioners of its own, bringing the total back up to nine. The unified district adopted its current name in 2020.

Seven commissioners now sit on the district’s board, two having termed out since the 2019 merger, O’Brien said. But on paper, it’s still only supposed to have five. To change that requires a majority vote of district residents.

The ballot measure for February’s special election asks voters to change the official number of commissioners to seven. O’Brien said district leadership believes the extra two seats are necessary given the population growth the area has experienced in recent years.

“We’ve found that seven, the number we’re already at, is a good match for our needs,” O’Brien said. “And we’ve found when the community understands why we need this to happen, they’re generally pretty positive about it.”

At a Jan. 31 virtual question-and-answer session with district leaders, constituents raised concerns about taxpayer spending hikes for board salaries. O’Brien explained commissioners receive stipends of $128 per day of work, up to an annual maximum of $12,288. Those expenses would not change if the current seven members stayed on, he said.

If the measure is approved, current commissioners Randy Fay and Troy Elmore will be up for re-election in November.

Riley Haun: 425-339-3192; riley.haun@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @RHaunID.

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