On the Ballot: Annexation Prop. # 1
On the ballot this year in East County is Proposition #1. This proposition would annex the City of Elma Fire Department into and be part of Fire District #5, which would be called East Grays Harbor Fire Rescue.
I recently asked Fire Chief Fulbright of Fire District #5, if the annexation would see a savings in admin costs?
He said, "Currently we only fund two administrative positions at District 5, the position of Fire Chief who is responsible for the overall operations of the District and an Administrative Assistant position who processes accounts payable/payroll/data base management. The City of Elma has a volunteer Chief who receives a stipend for the extra work he puts in beyond running calls. If the annexation passes, we will continue to run with the two administrative positions and have no plans to add additional full time administrative staff at this time."
I asked the Chief, what benefits or savings are the citizens receiving that cannot be done with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)?
He said, "the Washington State Rating Bureau comes around every five years to rate our communities fire protection capabilities, they evaluate Elma and Distict 5 as individual departments, each of us being graded on our staffing, training, response times, equipment, front line apparatus and reserves apparatus. We get some credit for our mutual aid, automatic aid and interlocal agreements, however, because we are graded as separate entities that means we are forced to fill the recommendation provided by the WA State Rating Bureau as a separate department. By annexing and becoming one we can hopefully reduce the property owners annual Insurance premiums while reducing the overall costs in doing so." He went on and talked about the benefits of merged resources.
Finally, I asked, if the ballot measures for fire levies now include both the voters in the City of Elma & Fire District 5?
He said, "Yes, that is correct once the annexation passes the citizens combined from both the City and District will be voting together on all ballot measures related to Fire/EMS Levies and Bonds."
Historically, Fire District 5 has not had an easy time passing some of their levies (for various reasons) and with the merger, it adds a larger base of voters to the mix, likely changing future outcomes.
He explained that if the new district is formed, it would then ask the voters of Elma and the District if they would like to see an increase in their Fire Commissioner Board from three-person to a five-person.
I appreciate and was impressed with the quick and candid responses from Chief Fulbright. The Chief has done a great job for us in East County.
Will annexing the Elma Fire Department and District #5 benefit the citizens
of East County? You decide.