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Fire annexation goes to voters in April

Enumclaw-area voters will be asked in April to decide the fate of a ballot measure that would profoundly change the operation of the local fire department.

The department is now a joint function of the city and King County Fire Protection District 28. Operating out of headquarters on Wells street in the city, the operation includes outlying stations and equipment owned by both entities.

The city is charged with running the administrative side of things, although district residents elect a three-member board of commissioners who watch out for their interests. Both city and rural residents pay taxes to support Enumclaw/District 28.

The ballot measure coming on April 27 would put an end to the present arrangement. City voters will be asked if they choose to annex into the district, while district voters will be asked if they favor accepting city residents. A favorable vote on both ends will be required for passage.

The end result would be a single fire district, with the city getting out of the fire business.

Fire Chief Joe Clow, who has been on the job since August, said there are advantages to a department serving just one master. The administrative lines are more clearly drawn, he said, and, when it comes to funding, a district has more latitude than the city.

Presently, property owners in both the city and District 28 pay about the same tax rate to support fire and emergency medical services. That would continue, although it appears rates may climb as the department adds to its full-time, professional staff.

Members of the Enumclaw City Council agreed to put the concept before voters during their Jan. 11 meeting.

Councilman Mike Ennis was a vocal opponent of the idea, wondering aloud how the city benefits from giving up management of the department.

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