Stanwood outsources fire, EMS operations

STANWOOD — Starting April 1, the North County Regional Fire Authority will provide fire and emergency medical services in Stanwood city limits.

Stanwood signed a contract with the fire authority earlier this month. The contract goes through 2031, because the city wanted a long-term agreement.

Stanwood will pay roughly $1.2 million a year under the contract, north county fire chief Dale Fulfs said.

The city will be charged $2 for every thousand dollars of property value covered. The bill will be calculated using 2012 property values for the next five years.

City officials have declined a permanent merger with the fire authority.

However, they could change their minds in the next few years, depending on how things go, Mayor Dianne White said.

“We’re doing this because we’re only 6,200 people, and we can’t afford our own fire department, and we want the best for our citizens,” she said.

Since the economy tanked, many communities in Snohomish County have regionalized police and fire services to save money and share resources. There are more talks of mergers and partnerships under way.

For now, the fire authority will rent Stanwood’s Fire Station 99 at 8117 267th St. NW. It also will rent the city’s fire equipment and vehicles.

The fire authority has five years to decide if it wants to buy the equipment, Fulfs said. No major purchases are planned soon.

North county also hired all of Stanwood’s six firefighters.

The signatures on the contract may end some drama that brewed during the six months of negotiations.

Stanwood formerly partnered with Camano Island Fire &Rescue for services. Some had voiced concerns that a contract with the fire authority would force layoffs at Camano and affect service in Stanwood.

Stanwood officials signed the contract only after they felt that all the important issues had been addressed, White said.

“The contract is extremely tightly written so there are performance standards all the way down the line,” she said.

The unions for Stanwood and North County career firefighters merged in 2011, north county union President Eric Ensign said.

The firefighters are excited to participate in community events in Stanwood, including possible fire prevention programs in schools, he said.

“We’re all really excited and happy to finally get it done and start the process of working together,” he said.

North County Regional Fire Authority now serves more than 22,000 people over 109 square miles, including Warm Beach, Freeborn and Bryant.

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

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