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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Medical Lake to become part of Fire District 3 after measure earns strong voter approval

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 6, 2019, 11:30 p.m.

Medical Lake Fire Chief Jason Mayfield stands in the crowded equipment bay at the department’s downtown firestation Friday, July 19, 2019. City residents voted Tuesday to join Fire District 3, which can expand the capability to answer calls over the present all-volunteer force. Taxes will increase slightly, but the current all-volunteer force can’t get to all emergency calls. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Medical Lake Fire Chief Jason Mayfield stands in the crowded equipment bay at the department’s downtown firestation Friday, July 19, 2019. City residents voted Tuesday to join Fire District 3, which can expand the capability to answer calls over the present all-volunteer force. Taxes will increase slightly, but the current all-volunteer force can’t get to all emergency calls. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Voters in Medical Lake and Spokane County Fire District 3 voted to merge the city’s fire department with the district Tuesday night.

In Fire District 3, the measure passed with 71.3% of the vote. Medical Lake voters passed the measure with 74.1% of the vote. Both measures needed a simple majority or 50% to pass.

“We’ve been planning as you can imagine for over a year now,” Fire District 3 Chief Cody Rohrbach said. “We are ready to get to work.”

Rohrbach was not surprised at the results of the election.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of optimism and support,” Rohrbach said. “We’ve been waiting patiently for tonight.”

City officials worked ahead of the election to put an interlocal agreement into place so that Fire District 3 could take over servicing Medical Lake immediately.

The station will be renovated to meet code requirements for overnight staffing. Staff will be a mixture of career firefighters and volunteers, with no one currently volunteering at the department losing that opportunity. The district already started drafting plans in hopes of getting it up and running as soon as possible.

Medical Lake has had its own fire department since 1904. However, in recent years staffing the all-volunteer station has been a consistent issue.

Currently, more than one in four emergency calls in Medical Lake goes unanswered, according to a fact sheet provided by the city.

Residents of Medical Lake will see a 74 cent increase per $1,000 of assessed value in their property taxes as a result of the merger.

Rohrbach said it was exciting to add the residents of Medical Lake.

“Welcome to Fire District 3, and we look forward to supporting the service area as part of our community,” he said.

In a separate ballot measure, Fire District 3 voters also approved a levy lid lift to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase from $1.41.

Over the last 2 1/2 years, as a result of changes in population and property values, the value of the district’s existing levy eroded from $1.50 to $1.41.

In the past, the district has asked voters to restore levy funds when erosion brought the rate close to $1.40, Rohrbach said.

Longtime fire Commissioner Sharon Colby agreed the levy lid lift was routine.

The levy lift passed with 66.2% of the vote and needed a simple majority to pass.

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