The Spokane Valley Fire Department wants voters to approve a $113 million tax to help pay salaries, buy new fire engines and build a new Barker Road fire station and a new maintenance facility.
The maintenance and operations levy will be on the Feb. 12 special election ballot. The cost would be spread across four years. It would replace an expiring levy that 72 percent of voters embraced in 2015.
The levy tax rate is proposed at $1.90 per $1,000 of assessed home value. That’s a 10 cent increase over the department’s expiring levy of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The levy needs at least 60 percent of voter approval to pass. For the owner of a home with a $200,000 assessment the cost would be about $380 per year.
The maintenance and operation levy also funds 54 percent of the fire department’s annual operating budget, which includes firefighter salaries and day-to-day expenses.
If approved, the levy would replaceaging firetrucks and pay for new emergency equipment and an additional alternative response unit – a smaller vehicle staffed with a firefighter and paramedic who respond to non-life threatening medical calls.
The levy would also pay for capital projects to support continued growth in Spokane Valley.
The department is planning minor renovations to its Sullivan Fire Station that call for construction of an entryway to provide citizens with a “24/7 safe zone,” – a feature in all other SVFD stations.
Based on growth projections, fire department officials say a new fire station is needed near Barker Road and Euclid Avenue.
Spokane Valley Fire Chief Bryan Collins said northeast Spokane Valley is growing with residential developments and commercial businesses such as Katerra, which is building a large cross-laminated timber facility in the area.
“It’s a rapidly growing area of the district and we have a hole out there because we don’t have a fire station that can meet our response standards in that area,” he said.
Collins said the fire department has been considering a new station in the area for years.
“We anticipate right now 2023 is when that station will be a requirement to maintain our current district-wide response times,” he said.
The department anticipates hiring a total of 12 firefighters to staff the new fire station in 2022.
“We’ve hired half of them already and they are currently filling spots that are open in our department,” said Collins.
The fire department aims to build a new fleet maintenance center.
Collins said the existing 25-year-old building will still be used for training.
“When we build the new station 11, the plan is to purchase enough property to have the facility located by that station,” said Patrick Burch, fire board commissioner for the SVFD. “But, we really need to double the size for service needs.”
Burch said the levy is integral to maintaining the fire department’s level of service for 125,000 citizens, adding that if the levy measure fails, fire insurance premiums could go up, the paramedic program would lose support and six stations would close, leaving four stations to cover 75 square miles.
“If we had a major structure fire in the Valley, it leaves the area vulnerable for other emergency calls that come up,” he said.
The fire department receives more than 18,000 calls per year and delivers emergency medical services to 86 percent of those calls.
“(The levy) is a huge impact for us, so it’s very important,” Burch said. “We would like to encourage people to get out and vote based on the information provided.”
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