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Negotiations for merging fire services end

The Marysville City Council votes to not continue talks of forming a Regional Fire Authority

 

December 20, 2017 | View PDF



Talks between Marysville and Arlington to potentially merge their fire services are likely coming to an end after the Marysville City Council voted to end negotiations during their Dec. 11 meeting.

The City of Marysville is currently provided fire service by the Marysville Fire District, which covers the City of Marysville and Fire District 12, which includes some of the area outside of the city limits.

As call volumes rise city officials have been looking for ways to improve funding for their fire services.

“The reason we started these talks in the first place was to have more financial sustainability in the long term,” said Gloria Hirashima, chief administrative officer with the City of Marysville.

“Over time we know that costs will continue to increase and we need a system to provide finances to cover those increases,” Hirashima said.

The city talked last year about forming a Regional Fire Authority (or RFA) with Fire District 12 instead of their current model.

An RFA has a different taxing model that has the potential for better revenue.

However, Fire District 12 and City of Marysville officials couldn’t agree on a governing structure as Marysville officials wanted more say because they had the majority of the population.

Earlier this year, in August, Arlington and Marysville began considering the possibility of forming an RFA between the Marysville Fire District and the Arlington Fire Department.

“We originally wanted to begin these discussions because there was a significant amount of work that we do together anyway,” said Kristin Banfield, communications manager for the city of Arlington.

“It was the next logical step given the work we do,” she said.

An RFA meant possibly gaining efficiencies of scale, providing better service and/or having a more sustainable revenue model as well, said Banfield.

There was also the redundancies in coverage that would be reduced from the two fire services’ overlaps.

“Frequently we [the Arlington Fire Department and the Marysville Fire District] would roll up on the same call,” said Banfield.

Over the past few months officials from Arlington, Marysville and Fire District 12 have met and discussed the possibility, with the hope they would have a decision by the end of the year.

“One of the goals was to have a recommendation to proceed with a formation by the end of the year,” said Hirashima. “The goal was to judge whether it was a likely scenario going forward."

On Dec. 11 the Marysville City Council voted to not continue the negotiations.

“I think there were two main disagreements,” said Hirashima.

The issue of governance and that Marysville should have more voice was a stumbling block again, but Hirashima added the more important issue was finances.

“The financial considerations of whether you could blend these three different entities that had differing amounts of debt, reserves and financial statuses,” she said.

The Arlington Fire Department holds some debt for recently purchased equipment and exactly who would pay that off was a point of debate between the three organizations.

“Our council wanted more parity in what every party was bringing to the table,” said Hirashima. “It’s hard to achieve balance when blending all these different organizations together."

Banfield said that the same day, just a little before the Marysville City Council had made their decision the Arlington City Council had already voted to continue the negotiations.

“Our council agreed to continue the negotiations with Marysville in the same night they decided to end them,” she said.

“Our council had a healthy discussion and there was some talk if continuing would be worth it, but ultimately they decided to vote to continue,” she said.

Banfield said that city officials and representatives are still absorbing the information and plan to talk about what’s next.

“We’re going to have some additional conversations now about possible next steps for the fire department,” she said.

Arlington city officials hope to get together in the coming weeks to talk about what the Marysville City Council’s decision means for the Arlington Fire Department, said Banfield.

As for Marysville, Hirashima said that the city is considering renewing talks with Fire District 12, which had previously stalled.

Marysville city officials plan to send a correspondence out to Fire District 12 officials soon to see if they are interested, she said.

The Marysville Fire District declined to comment at this time.

 

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