Mill Creek seeks higher EMS levy

  • By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor
  • Tuesday, April 20, 2010 6:45pm

MILL CREEK — Mill Creek voters will get to decide whether to approve a higher emergency medical services levy that would add firefighters and paramedics to improve local response rates.

The City Council voted unanimously April 13 to include a measure on the Aug. 17 primary ballot asking taxpayers to shell out 45 cents per $1,000 assessed value for a six-year EMS levy. The owner of a $400,000 home would pay $180, more than twice the current rate.

Before voting to put the measure on the ballot, the council split 4-3 on the price tag, with three council members wanting a higher rate of 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value.

Councilmen Mike Todd, Mark Harmsworth, Terry Ryan and Mark Bond voted in favor of the 45-cent levy rate. Council members Donna Michelson, Kathy Nielsen and Bart Masterson wanted a 50-cent rate.

“I don’t want to ask for any more than we need,” Harmsworth said.

Bond said it was a matter of principle as taxpayers feel the pinch of the recession.

“My premise is even 10 bucks is still their money and they should choose how to spend it,” he said.

Ryan said if the city was to ask for 50 cents and use less than that, it would appear as a “bait and switch.”

“When you take more than you need, it doesn’t sit well,” he said.

Property owners are currently charged 18 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or $72 for the owner of a $400,000 home.

The increase would add personnel to staff a three-man engine and two-man medic unit.

The city contracts for fire and EMS services through Fire District 7 at Station 76, 1020 152nd Place SE, Mill Creek. The city’s current six-year EMS levy expires this year.

The average base salary for a top-step firefighter is $79,416 and $55,596 for a new recruit, FD 7 spokeswoman Autumn Waite said. Hiring eight more firefighters is expected to cost, on average, $769,960 per year, including salaries, benefits and training.

Earlier this month, council members agreed they wanted to rely on facts, not fear, as they endorse the EMS levy increase that is anticipated to lower missed emergency calls.

“We’re not the size we should be given our call number,” Bond said. “We’re not a good neighbor; we’re not there for them when they need us.”

In 2009, crews from Fire District 7 Station 76 were unavailable for 18 percent of dispatched EMS alarms and 24 percent of dispatched fire alarms. * The station relies on neighboring fire stations to pick up the slack.

Masterson said the levy should be raised to 50 cents, calling it “the next logical step.”

Compared to neighboring cities like Everett, Masterson said Mill Creek hasn’t been paying its fair share for EMS services. Everett residents currently pay 32 cents per $1,000 valuation, but voters there are currently weighing a return to a 50-cent levy last approved in 2000.

“It’s time for us to step up and pay for a higher level of service,” Masterson said.

*Correction, April 20, 2010: This story originally stated that Station 76 was available for 18 percent of dispatched EMS alarms and 24 percent of dispatched fire alarms.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.