Clallam fire district eyeing two levies

Funds would support services, Carlsborg station

SEQUIM — Officials from Clallam County Fire District 3 are preparing for two levy votes for next year as they look to maintain the district’s staffing levels and to help replace equipment and infrastructure such as the Carlsborg fire station.

Fire commissioners unanimously agreed on May 21 for staff to formally begin planning to bring a general levy lid lift and an EMS levy to voters on Aug. 5, 2025.

Board chair Jeff Nicholas said that date works best because “it’s the most logical time and gives us time to build a case with the public.”

Commissioner Mike Mingee shared optimism for renewing the levies.

“As long as our folks keep delivering excellent service ... I think our folks will be supported,” he said.

Under a preliminary plan, a general levy lid lift would be proposed to bring tax collections back up to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while an EMS levy would move up to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Fire district staff estimate it would cost a resident with a $470,000 home about $23 per month in the levies’ first year.

Fire Chief Justin Grider said rates and numbers could fluctuate in the future.

“Traditionally, we’ve been good stewards of taxpayers’ money,” he said. “The longer we go without a (renewed) levy, the ask gets larger.”

Staff reported that the district’s general levy is currently at $1.12 per $1,000 of assessed value, and the EMS levy is at $0.35 per $1,000 of assessed value.

In 2018, voters approved increasing the fire district’s general levy rate from $1.26 to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, and in 2019, voters approved the EMS levy renewal to go from $0.46 to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Renewed levies collected in 2026 would tentatively add about $5.5 million, or 38 percent more than the current tax collection to the district, staff reported.

The general levy makes up about two-thirds of the fire district’s budget, while the EMS levy is most of the other third, minus timber revenues, donations, grants and charges for service.

In an April 30 special board meeting, staff initially recommended bringing a bond to voters to pay for the cost of Station 33 Carlsborg, along with a levy lid lift for ongoing expenses.

Mingee was against a bond because of the difficulty of passing a 60 percent supermajority, according to meeting meetings. Commissioners instead favored running the levy renewals, along with using general funds, future revenues and extending apparatus purchases.

District leaders have been planning for a new Carlsborg Station 33 at the current Training and Operation Center, 255 Carlsborg Road, as the current station at 70 Carlsborg Road is too small for staff and apparatuses.

Commissioners agreed to sell two properties previously planned for new stations — the district’s 1.96-acre East Anderson Road property for $160,000 and 5.2 acres of land on the 100 block of Sieberts Creek Road for $175,000 — to go toward the new Carlsborg station.

They also likely will sell Lost Mountain Station 36 to help with costs, after two public meetings and efforts to recruit volunteers to work out of the station.

Grider said the properties were sold because their analysis and mapping show those service areas have a low call volume, and they will continue to assess the best station locations for the best all-around response times.

Following a decision last September to purchase three new fire trucks for about $3.4 million, Grider said the district will look to refurbish and/or re-chassis ambulances and fire trucks for the foreseeable future due to increasing costs.

Fire District 3 serves a 142-square-mile district from Gardiner to Bagley Creek, and staff estimate they’re on pace to respond to a record 9,000 emergency calls this year.

With four firefighters currently coming on board, the district will have 50 active firefighters by early July, Grider said.

For more information about Clallam County Fire District 3, visit ccfd3.org.

Adding a PIO

Commissioners also requested numerous options to explore at a future meeting for bringing on a public information officer (PIO), which could entail a current staffer taking on the duties, a volunteer or some other option.

Battalion Chief Chris Turner said on May 21 he and other battalion chiefs issue some press releases for major incidents, and they try to touch on one safety or awareness topic once a month.

He said a PIO would be better suited for clear and concise messaging about levy information.

Mingee said “in a perfect world,” the PIO would be part of the duties of the fire code technician (inspector) along with public education.

He added that, due to budget constraints, they can’t create the position but encouraged staff to be creative in brainstorming the role.

Nicholas said getting word out will be difficult as there isn’t mass media in the area, and there are “lots of little things people look at.”

“It’s going to be a big job for a complex issue,” he said. “It’s not going to be something we can easily deal with.”

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of newspapers Peninsula News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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