Merger of two fire districts proposed

Voters in King County Fire District 17 will be asked in a special election on May 20 whether the district should merge into King County Fire District 44.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:08pm
  • News

District 44 already runs 17

Voters in King County Fire District 17 will be asked in a special election on May 20 whether the district should merge into King County Fire District 44.

District 44, also known as Mountain View Fire and Rescue, has operated the two fire departments as a single unit since the signing of an interlocal agreement in April 2006.

A merger would give District 17 residents a direct voice in District 44 operations, officials said.

The merger, if approved, will take place Jan. 1, 2009.

Both districts are funded under the same state laws regulating property taxes. No new property taxes or funding mechanisms are included in the question of whether the districts should merge.

“It made perfect sense 50 years ago when these districts were first formed to have separate fire departments,” said Mountain View chief Greg Smith. “The needs are different, now that District 17 owns no fire stations, no aid vehicles and has no personnel.

Smith said merging fire districts in King County has become commonplace as a result of city annexations reducing the size of districts and the overall growth in demand for emergency services that has occurred “since the 1950s, when many districts were formed.”

Residents of District 17 should see no difference when they call 9-1-1, since it would be the same emergency personnel responding on the same apparatus. All of the existing stations and equipment that serve the District 17 area would remain in operation.

“We think this is the reasonable thing to do,” said District 17 Commissioner Robin Mauro. “We have been operating as one fire

department for two years. It’s time to eliminate an extra layer of government that no longer is needed.”

According to Smith, District 17 hasn’t operated its own fire department for more than 10 years, when the city of Black Diamond annexed Lake Sawyer and assumed operation of the fire department. Black Diamond later contracted with Fire District 44 to provide service in both the city and District 17.

Smith invited voters who have questions about the merger proposal to call him at (253) 735 0284.

District 44 serves a population of about 32,000 within 70 square miles. The area has an assessed property value of $2.6 billion.

The district has a budget of approximately $4 million and is governed by five elected commissioners. It has 29 fulltime firefighters and officers and 125 volunteers, nine fire stations and 20-plus vehicles.

Staff writer Kris Hill contributed to this report.

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