From a joint Snohomish County Fire District 7 and Monroe Fire District press release.
At its Tuesday, March 15, 2016, meeting the Board of Fire Commissioners for Snohomish County Fire District 7 accepted a petition from Monroe Fire District 3 to merge.
Voters in Fire District 3 will now have the opportunity to approve the merger during the August 2 Primary Election.
If approved by voters, the tax rate for property owners in Fire District 3 would decrease from a projected $2.10 to $1.94 per $1,000 based on 2016 assessed valuations.
Property owners in Fire District 7 are not required to vote on the proposal and their tax rate would remain the same. The combined fire districts would serve approximately 110,000 residents in south central and eastern Snohomish County.
Monroe Fire Chief Jamie Silva says that Fire District 3 has been working for some time to find a cost-effective way to maintain emergency service levels for local residents. During the last recession, property values fell by 35 percent. As property values declined, so did the amount of revenue Fire District 3 received to provide emergency services.
“We needed to find innovative ways to maintain emergency service levels and improve efficiencies for taxpayers,” said Chief Silva. “The merger will make our successful partnership with Fire District 7 a permanent reality.”
Many fire districts are merging to create economies of scale and improve efficiencies. Fire District 3 and 7 already share a shop to repair apparatus and equipment. Last year, the two agencies started a community resource paramedicine program to improve patient care and reduce non-emergency calls to 911.
In January, the fire districts combined administrative functions to reduce job overlap. These efforts have improved emergency operations for both agencies.
Fire District 3 has gained an accounting and human resources department, as well as a public safety educator.
Fire District 7 now has a fire prevention division and Fire Marshall to improve public safety. There are also more resources for firefighter training and managing large-scale emergencies.
“What we want is to provide better service for the public,” said Fire District 7 Chief Gary Meek. “Merging our two fire districts would make these benefits permanent.”
Another benefit to the merger would be to reduce the bureaucracy and costs associated with running two organizations.
“It would be nice to pay just one lawyer and accountant,” said Chief Silva, laughing. “Who wouldn’t want to reduce these costs?”
Monroe Fire District 3 serves the residents of Snohomish County Fire District #3 and the City of Monroe. The service area protected by Monroe Fire District 3 is 55 square miles and serves an estimated population of 30,000 residents with an average of 3,400 calls per year, 68% of which are EMS-related. The fire district utilizes a combination of career and volunteer firefighters to efficiently deliver the best possible service to local residents.
Snohomish County Fire District 7 provides fire and life safety services to 77,000 people over 55 square miles, including the City of Mill Creek. In 2015 emergency personnel responded to just under 6,000 calls, 81% of which were for Emergency Medical Service (EMS). Taxpayers in Fire District 7 have built the most advanced emergency response system in Snohomish County with highly-trained personnel, facilities, apparatus, and rescue programs.