Fire Commissioner Chairperson Dale Mitchell and other commissioners sign a resolution giving authority to Chief Bud Backer to sign bond documents, meaning the commission doesn’t have to schedule a special meeting to do so themselves. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Fire Commissioner Chairperson Dale Mitchell and other commissioners sign a resolution giving authority to Chief Bud Backer to sign bond documents, meaning the commission doesn’t have to schedule a special meeting to do so themselves. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

East Pierce celebrates bond passage

The 20-year, $80 million bond was the largest fire department bond ever approved by voters in state history.

Although the 2018 midterm election results weren’t certified until yesterday, East Pierce Fire and Rescue celebrated the likely passage of their bond measure during the Nov. 20 Fire Commissioners meeting.

As of Monday, Nov. 26, the 20-year, $80 million bond measure was passing with 60.25 percent of the vote.

“I was hoping to have a mass of people cheering, but that’s OK,” said Chairman Dale Mitchell to room empty of East Pierce residents. “We got the cheerleaders we need and we’re happy with where we are.”

With voter approval more or less secured, the commissioners moved forward with purchasing the bonds — the first is expected to be bought by Dec. 28 for $40 million, and the second by Dec. 1, 2021, for the same amount.

According to Jim Nelson, senior vice president of the management services company D.A. Davidson and who is helping the East Pierce purchase these bonds, said this is the largest voter-approved bond for a fire district in state history, calling it “quite the accomplishment.”

The money will be used to renovate East Pierce Fire Stations 112, 114, and 118, as well as building a brand new Station 111 headquarters on Veterans Memorial Drive and a new Station 117 to cover the Tehaleh area. These modernized stations are necessary, said Fire Chief Bud Backer, because the department needs more room to staff firefighters and paramedics, as well as store vehicles and equipment, to mitigate rising emergency call rates.

Some of the money will also go toward re-chassising EMS vehicles, which Backer said will be near the end of their lifespan five years from now.

In order to pay back the bond, East Pierce residents expected to be taxed roughly 25 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value — about $100 a year for those with $40,000 homes — for the next two decades.

But Nelson had a little good news for them.

With the economy doing so well and his optimism toward East Pierce improving its bond rating from AA- to AA, he expects residents to pay closer to 24.5 cents per $1,000 in property value.

It’s not much, but the drop will save taxpayers close to a couple hundred dollars over the bond period.

In other news, East Pierce is gearing up to welcome three groups of new firefighters to their staffing levels, thanks in part to a new agreement with the IAFF Local 3520 firefighter union, which shortened a new firefighter’s probationary period.

The first group of six firefighters, Backer said, are expected to become part of the department’s official staffing levels in February 2019.

A second group of 9 firefighters, which was funded through a $1.7 million SAFER grant in August 2017, are expected to be on staff before July 2019.

The third group of 9 firefighters are expected to be finished with their probation at the end of 2019.

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