North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Talks continue regarding proposed RFA

 

October 4, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Marysville Fire Chief Martin McFalls, left, and Arlington's acting Fire Chief Dave Kraski discuss a potential Regional Fire Authority on Sept. 28 that would combine their services.

A potential Regional Fire Authority that would combine fire services for Marysville, Arlington and Fire District 12 was discussed on Sept. 28.

Officials from Arlington, Marysville and Fire District 12 met for a meeting in Arlington to discuss how a Regional Fire Authority (RFA) would come together if they wanted to proceed.

An RFA could offer benefits of size and efficiency. Officials hope it will also make it easier to fund the department so that it is sustainable in the future.

"We know that something has to be done," said Greg Koontz, president of Arlington's firefighter union. "We haven't created any new positions since 2009 and our call volume has nearly doubled. If this is the right answer, then that's great."

Koontz said his main desire is to make sure that quality of service stays where it is.

"We are driven to support the public that has supported us for years, including our neighbors. Our only concern is that continues to happen."

Talks between the City of Marysville and Fire District 12 stopped last year after the two groups could not reach an agreement with how a new district would be governed.

Currently the two work together as the Marysville Fire District.

The majority of the meeting was spent discussion potential governance options for a potential RFA.

Marysville has more than 65 percent of the population from the three groups, so most options involved the city having the majority of the seats.

Marysville City Council member Jeff Seibert said he wanted to support one of the boards that would "come close to the populations proportionally."

This would give Marysville representatives a great deal of control over the potential board.

"I want to make sure that we don't lose our seat at the table and lose our voice," said Arlington City Council member Chris Raezer.

Marysville officials also didn't want a minority voice to have undue influence.

"From Marysville's perspective, I wouldn't want a makeup that would allow a minority interest to sway a decision beyond my control. And I would want the same thing as a minority interest, I wouldn't want the big fish have so much power my voice doesn't mean anything," said Marysville City Council member Stephen Muller.

Officials from the two cities and Fire District 12 ended up preferring two options.

In the first board model, Marysville would get three board members while Arlington and Fire District 12 would get one board member.

Arlington officials also expressed a desire for a super-majority vote (a vote requiring above 50 percent of the board) for some actions, although they would have to be careful with the rules regarding that kind of system.

"You don't want to get into a situation where one person can stop all your business by voting 'no' all the time," said Karen Reed, a facilitator who is leading the RFA discussion.

"The service you provide is way too more important to allow that to happen," she said.

The other board model would give Marysville three board members, Arlington two board members and Fire District 12 one board member.

"I like this one because it still allows me as Marysville to say 'nah, I don't like this,' and at the same time brings voice to the smaller players," said Muller.

Even numbered boards are uncommon due to tie votes being possible, so there would have to be careful rules around split votes, said Reed.

"I saw the even number and kind of automatically dismissed it because of that, but I think there's actually a case to be made for it," said Raezer, who said because three jurisdictions are coming together it wouldn't be as likely to lead to gridlock.

Officials at the meeting agreed to move forward discussing those board models in the future and said that they could live with either of them.

Fire District 12 commissioner Pat Cook said that likely most board members for the RFA will act in the interest of the entire community.

Christopher Andersson

Fire District 12 commissioners Pat Cook, right, and Richard Ross talk about a potential Regional Fire Authority on Sept. 28 that would combine the Marysville Fire District and the Arlington Fire Department.

"I'm hearing that everyone wants a voice in the decision-making of the fire department," he said.

"But we're in this game to serve this community, period. No one's going to get short changed. We should be one voice that supports our community."

For an RFA to be formed it would have to be approved by the voters of the two cities and Fire District 12.

Arlington and Marysville firefighters said they already are familiar with their neighboring fire officials.

"We've worked with Marysville. We work with them everyday," said Koontz.

"Most of our senior guys know each other pretty well," said Jason Tucker, president of Marysville's firefighter union.

Tucker said that as talks continue the two firefighters groups are working to address any firefighter concerns.

"We're going to start getting our guys together and getting a conversation going to alleviate any anxiety," he said.

 

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