Fire benefit charge back on ballot

The Maple Valley Fire and Life Safety Board of Commissioners placed a fire benefit charge measure on the Aug. 1 primary election.

The fire benefit charge was on the November 2016 ballot and did not pass. It reached 58 percent yes, and in order for the measure to pass it needed 60 percent yes or a supermajority.

Fire Chief Aaron Tyerman addressed the Maple Valley City Council July 10 and said most people had no idea what it was, or they believed it did pass.

The benefit charge is based on how much risk a building posses, according to the fire chief.

For example, large commercial buildings have a higher risk level than a residential home. The formula to calculate the risk is based on the square footage of the building.

According to the Maple Valley Fire website, it is not based on property value, it is a fee that is based on the benefit of having fire protection.

“It is not based on your property value,” Tyerman said. “It will only charge you for your house and attached garage.”

There is a calculator on the department website formula and comparison look up tool on the website to help residents see what they will actually be paying.

The charge is based on the amount it will cost to fight a fire at a home or commercial building the website stated.

The benefit charge will help the department make improvements to each fire station in the Maple Valley area. For example, if it passes, Tyerman said the department would be able to rebuild station 85 in Hobart, which is in severe need of a remodel.

The chief said if this benefit charge does not pass, he will have to close down fire stations 82, 84 and 85. This will cause a dramatic increase in the amount of time it takes for the department to respond to a call.

“Everyday that a fire is reported, we have about 10 people working,” Tyerman said. “So a lot of our units are cross staffed, so we would be down to seven or eight people, so response times will go up.”

If the fire benefit charge does not pass this year, the volunteer firefighter program will be cut and some firefighters may even lose their job according to the chief.

Maple Valley Fire and Life Safety invited the public to a series of open house events this week that began Tuesday.

During each open house, the public can meet firefighters, along with the chief, climb on a fire engine, explore the fire station and learn more about the fire benefit charge.

The final open house is today, Friday, July 14, beginning at 7 p.m. at Maple Valley Station 83 (Pla-Mor), 27250 216th Ave SE Maple Valley 98038.