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Arlington, Marysville consider forming Regional Fire Authority

 

Christopher Andersson

cision of the Marysville City Council to look into forming an Regional Fire Authority with Arlington during a special meeting on Aug. 3.

Fire services in Marysville and Arlington may be combining in the future into one Regional Fire Authority.

Both the Marysville and Arlington city councils have voted to begin planning and discussing the potential of a Regional Fire Authority (RFA) for the two cities.

An RFA is a special fire district created by combining two or more fire districts and/or city fire departments.

A vote of the people residing in the proposed district would have to pass before forming any RFA as well.

The Arlington City Council approved forming a committee to look into the process during their Aug. 1 city council meeting.

The Marysville City Council approved a similar motion during a special meeting two days later on Aug. 3.

Both of the cities have been looking at alternatives to their current fire service models due to budget concerns.

"I think we've been working on a similar discussion that you [the city of Marysville] have been working on, and that's how to ensure a sustainable fire and EMS system," said Paul Ellis, Arlington city administrator, at the Aug. 3 special meeting.

Ellis said the city has been working for eight months looking at their options.

"We've been trying to come up with ways that provide a sustainable system and give the same level of service that our community has come to appreciate," he said.

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said that the border the cities share has posed difficulties.

"There has been a lot of growth in the Smokey Point area, in both the west side and the east side, and that has presented challenges for both of us in terms of fire service," she said.

"We feel like we need to explore every avenue and see what serves our citizens the best," she said.

Greg Koontz, president of IAFF Local 3728, Arlington's firefighter union, said that the union hasn't taken a stance yet, "but anything that solidifies the future of fire services in Arlington is something we'll be behind."

"We're going to go through the process of figuring out what this means for Arlington to make sure the service level is still good," he said.

Koontz said that union officials are on board to explore the opportunity, but also want to keep local Arlington traditions like the Santa Run going, even if an RFA is formed.

Marysville officials have also been looking at alternatives to their current model.

The Marysville Fire District is currently a contract partnership between the City of Marysville and Fire District 12, which was formed in 1992. Fire District 12 includes areas around Lake Goodwin.

Gloria Hirashima, chief administrative officer for the city, said the two main options the council was considering was the formation of an RFA or the creation of a city fire department, while continuing a contract with Fire District 12.

City officials looked at the revenue options for each option, including voted bonds, levies, property taxes and contract revenues.

Hirashima said that both options could be viable for the future.

Many Marysville firefighters have been pushing for an RFA though.

"It is becoming more and more evident that the RFA model with [Fire] District 12 is the way to go," said Marysville firefighter Jason Tucker at the July 25 City Council meeting.

"There are a lot of issues on the table, I understand, but there are model RFAs across the state," he said.

Marysville firefighter Tyler Dormaier said that an RFA model is best for fire service, but hoped the RFA would be between the City of Marysville and Fire District 12.

"I believe that the service we provide every day will not only be able to be what it is, but able to be better," he said.

The City of Marysville and Fire District 12 talked last year about an RFA, however, Fire District 12 wanted the governing board to be an even split, while city officials wanted more members of the governing board because Marysville would be about 80 percent of the population within the district.

Marysville City Council member Stephen Muller's motion to look into forming an RFA with Arlington passed unanimously and included a provision that the RFA's board would be proportionate to either population or assessed valuation.

Fire District 12 would also have the opportunity to join in the RFA.

"Fire District 12 shall be invited to join the creation of said RFA, under the proposed governance model," said Muller in his motion. "Should they choose not to participate, the existing inter-local agreement would terminate on Dec. 31, 2016, and we would extend a contract for services if they so desired," he said.

Fire District 12 officials have until the middle of September to express their decision.

If Fire District 12 officials don't want to continue with the current contract partnership, a city fire department may have to be formed in the interim while the planning process for the Arlington-Marysville RFA is taking place, said Muller.

Council president Kamille Norton thanked her fellow council members for exploring the issue from all sides.

"We've had our debates and disagreements, but it's important to know that all of us have come with a desire to represent our citizens well," she said.

"I know the work is not done, it just begins in a different way," she said.

 

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