Commissioners with Cowlitz County Fire District 6 have approved an EMS levy proposal of $1 per $1,000 of accessed property value to be considered during the Nov. 4 General Election.
Said to be the first such levy proposed to the district, based in Castle Rock, officials say revenue from the levy would help firefighters and EMS staff afford more than just the basic costs of running the agency and avoid a scenario in which an unexpected expense could bankrupt the district.
“I think we’ve had more than enough discussion on this,” said Commission Chair Mark Watenpaugh prior to approval of a resolution supporting the levy. “I’m more than happy with going to the voters and asking for $1 per $1,000.”
Commissioners had previously discussed July 14 how passage of the levy would provide around $300,000 more per year for the district’s annual $600,000 budget and allow for expenses such as new vehicles and equipment, specialized training, additional personnel, and possibly a fulltime chief.
Interim Chief Kurt Stich said the alternative to asking for a levy would be to continue operating the district on a shoestring budget and risk financial collapse in the event of an untimely financial liability, at which time the district may likely be absorbed into Kelso-and-Longview-based Cowlitz County Fire District 2, causing District 2’s current levy rate of $1.10 per $1,000 to be applied locally.
“The goal will be to provide as much information as we can,” he said of efforts to reach out to voters between now and November, stating he expects the fire district will be actively involved during upcoming community events to educate voters about the levy.
Also approved by commissioners was the language for a letter to Cowlitz County Fire District 3, in Toutle, asking them to be present at District 6’s next meeting on Aug. 11 to discuss possibly charging District 3 for ambulance services.
Without sufficient EMS staff, District 3 currently does not have an ambulance transportation license from the Washington Department of Health and District 6 has historically provided medical transportation to Toutle residents. However, Stich has said this constitutes a gifting of public funds under state law, as District 3 is unable to provide mutual aid, and cannot continue without payment for services.
The letter to District 3, once drafted and signed by District 6 commissioners, is expected to be mailed out this week.
The Aug. 11 meeting is expected to begin at 5 p.m. at the Castle Rock Fire Hall. Those with questions or in need of accommodations may call (360) 274-4413.