News

Regional fire district on ballot

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

A fire annexation special election scheduled for April 22 will decide three important fire service issues for the region.

The city of Sumner will vote on whether to accept annexation into East Pierce Fire and Rescue District 22.

Residents of District 1, south of Sumner and west of Bonney Lake, will vote to merge with District 22, which includes Lake Tapps up to the King County boundary, all of Bonney Lake and an area south beyond Carbonado.

District 22 will vote to approve the annexation of Sumner.

Sumner entered into a 10-year contracted with East Pierce to provide fire services in January 2007.

“This is the final step in what has been a thoughtful and careful process,” East Pierce Fire Chief Dan Packer said. “It's a matter of more efficiency and improving levels of service including 911 and nonemergency.”

If Sumner is annexed, the city's residents will be able to vote on East Pierce tax rates and fire commissioners. Also, taxes now paid to the city for fire services would go directly to East Pierce.

Packer said there would not be a change for residents already in the East Pierce region.

“We would just be gaining new partners who can help support the fire district,” he said. “It is just a change of governance for Sumner.”

Packer noted the year of services already completed with Sumner has been positive for both the city and the district.

“East Pierce benefited from firefighters with more experience with taller buildings and warehouses,” Packer said.

Many fire departments across the state have merged into regional fire districts in recent years. Packer said the tax dollars are spread further through regional districts.

“If you make an island in the middle of an area, that area would have to have the same (fire department) equipment as a large fire department,” Packer said. “The difference is the small area has to pay for all of it. Regional districts are a lot more efficient.”

The Pierce County auditor will send mail-in ballots to residents Friday. Ballots must be postmarked by April 22.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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