Board of Fire Commissioners to Meet on Lid Lift Resolution

Measure Could Be on August Primary Election Ballot

Langley, WA – The Board of Fire Commissioners for South Whidbey Fire/EMS is scheduling a public conference call to consider a resolution to place a fire levy lid lift on the August 4 Primary Election ballot. That “virtual” meeting will take place on Friday, April 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The public is invited and encouraged to participate by accessing the meeting from any phone by dialing 1-866-899-4679 and entering passcode 130-035-077#.

“We were facing challenges to provide service before COVID-19,” said Fire Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer. “The truth of the matter is that the pandemic is showing why this funding request is timely.”

The Fire District has been discussing a possible fire levy lid lift for two years. The intent is to use funds to hire additional emergency personnel and replace aging apparatus. Now, it’s likely that, if approved by voters, some of the revenue would be used to backfill some costs associated with COVID-19.

“We’re seeing higher costs for everything from hand sanitizer to personal protective equipment (PPEs) for firefighters,” said Chief Palmer. “We’re also prepared to hire temporary emergency personnel for the surge. The need is real and we must be ready to care for both our community and first responders.”

South Whidbey Fire/EMS has been transparent in its struggles when it comes to staffing. Call volumes have increased 12 percent for the Fire District since 2014. Historically, it has relied on volunteers to respond to calls. During the last recession, it lost 30 percent of its emergency responders. The pandemic also has reduced those numbers as volunteers are placed on medical leave due to underlying health conditions.

“This highlights our staffing needs more than ever,” said Chief Palmer. “We recognize this is a difficult time for many, but we hope our community recognizes that emergency services are a priority for their tax dollars.”

At the upcoming meeting, the Fire District will vote on a resolution asking voters to approve a 30-cent fire levy lid lift during the August 4 Primary Election. The lid lift would last for six years, and cost approximately $10 per month for the owner of a $400,000 home. If approved, the levy rate would change from 65 cents to 95 cents per $1,000. By way of comparison, the fire levy rate for the Fire District was $1.00 in 1990.

More information about the fire levy lid lift can be found on the website at www.swfe.org under “Public Information.” Community members with questions who are unable to attend the meeting are encouraged to contact Chief Rusty Palmer at 360-321-1533 or chief@swfe.org. All communication is welcome and becomes part of the public record.