Clark Co. Fire Dist. 3
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News Releases
Investments in Emergency Services Stay with Fire District Residents While Annexation Talks Progress - 08/23/19

BRUSH PRAIRIE, WA— Two years ago, voters in Clark County Fire District 3 approved a fire levy lid lift to improve staffing and emergency services. Two years later, the Fire District will welcome three new emergency personnel this September to help increase staffing in Venersborg and other parts of the district. The Fire District also plans to hire three more firefighters to respond to increasing call volumes.

It also has been able to replace aging emergency apparatus used for daily responses and fighting wildland fires in the county where homes border forested areas. Wildland fires were a significant issue in 2017 for east Clark County, and smaller apparatus can drive where larger engines are not able to maneuver.

These investments in fire services have helped maintain the insurance rating for the fire district, which correlates to lower premiums for home and business owners. It also happened at a time when Battle Ground is discussing the possibility of asking City voters to annex to the Fire District. Currently, Fire District 3 provides emergency services to the City through a short-term contract. As such, it is a fee-for-service arrangement that does not allow long-term planning for City residents.

The Fire District maintains accurate accounts of how it spends money on emergency services for its District and City taxpayers. Chief Scott Sorenson says that the Fire District is still in a difficult position.

“It’s like scratching your right shoulder when your whole back is itching,” he said. “Our commitment has to be to residents of the Fire District and we are making the investments they paid for. However, there are real needs in the city of Battle Ground for personnel, apparatus and facilities. The City doesn’t have the revenue to pay for them without cutting police, parks and roads. And, it’s not right for our taxpayers in the county to fund these improvements. That’s why annexation is an option.”

Battle Ground is the only city in the area that contracts for emergency services. The current contract rate equates to $1.35 of the City’s $1.37 per $1,000 of assessed value property tax levy. Other City services funded through this revenue source include police, parks maintenance, and road improvements and repairs. The emergency services contract is expected to exceed the City’s property tax levy in 2021, and officials are currently exploring new terms.

Under annexation, all property owners would pay the same amount for emergency services, which is projected to be $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value by the time the annexation is finalized. The City plans to offset some of these costs to its taxpayers by reducing the utility tax renters and property owners pay for water, sewer and stormwater by 10 percent.

City residents also would be able to vote on fire district issues such as commissioners, levies, and bonds, which they currently can’t do. If annexation were to take place, both City and Fire District residents must approve it during an election.

Chief Sorenson is quick to point out that City and Fire District residents benefit from working together. Stations in both jurisdictions back up one another during multiple emergency calls. The contract also has allowed for improved training, fire marshal and fire prevention services.

This partnership contributes to the strong insurance rating for both City and Fire District residents. Without it, City property owners likely would see insurance premiums increase as staffing levels drop and fire prevention services are reduced. However, the issue of annexation is more about fairness and service needs, said Chief Sorenson.

“City residents require more services, and we will not have our taxpayers subsidize those costs,” said Chief Sorenson.

 

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Clark County Fire District 3 provides fire suppression and emergency medical service to 40,000 people over 90 square miles, including the City of Battle Ground. Forty-five full-time and 13 volunteer emergency personnel responded to 4,221 calls in 2018 – 5.3% higher than the previous year. We live by our core values of professionalism, safety, teamwork, integrity, and community.  More information on Fire District 3 can be found on its website www.fire3.org.

Annexation Discussion Continues for Battle Ground and Clark County Fire District 3 - 07/30/19

BATTLE GROUND & BRUSH PRAIRIE, WA— The City of Battle Ground and Clark County Fire District 3 are continuing discussions about annexation. The City, which currently contracts for fire service, will ask its voters to annex into the Fire District during the February Special Election in 2020. Voters in Fire District 3 also have to approve the annexation.

The cost of the current fire services contract will exceed the City’s property tax collection revenues by 2021. The City would have to reduce emergency service levels to maintain a balanced budget. Loss of revenue from the fire services contract also would impact service levels for Fire District 3 residents.

“This partnership benefits both city and fire district residents,” said Fire Chief Scott Sorenson. “We have increased staffing, replaced apparatus, and improved our training, paramedic and fire risk reduction programs. Less revenue means we would lose some of these partnership benefits, which is why a contractual relationship has risks. Contractual relationships in the fire service, by their very nature, are temporary and unstable.”

Battle Ground is the only city in Clark County that contracts for emergency services. Property owners pay the City through its general levy, and the City pays the Fire District for service. The amount City and Fire District residents pay for emergency services can differ, as well. For example, City property owners will pay a bit more next year as the Fire District’s fire levy falls below the agreed contract amount.

Under annexation, City property owners would pay the Fire District directly for service. All property owners would pay the same fire levy rate projected to be $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value when the annexation takes effect in 2021. City residents also would be able to vote on fire district matters such as commissioners, levies, and bonds, which they currently can’t do.

Annexation also would allow long-term planning for emergency services and City projects.  The Fire District currently cannot make investments to maintain emergency service levels and response times in case the contract is not renewed. Likewise, the City does not have the revenue to make those investments itself. Annexation would allow the Fire District to address future emergency service needs while helping the City fund stronger policing efforts, better streets and parks maintenance.

“Battle Ground residents want quality fire and emergency medical services as we grow,” said Erin Erdman, city manager. “Residents believe fire and EMS are essential to the well-being of our community, which was a key focus area in our recent community visioning process.”

The City and Fire District anticipate asking voters to consider annexation during the February 2020 Special Election. More information can be found on the City’s web site at https://www.cityofbg.org/470/Fire-Emergency-Medical-Services.  People with additional questions are encouraged to email Chief Scott Sorenson (scott@fire3.org) or City Manager Erin Erdman (erin.erdman@cityofbg.org) personally.

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Clark County Fire District 3 provides fire suppression and emergency medical service to 40,000 people over 90 square miles, including the City of Battle Ground. Forty-five full-time and 13 volunteer emergency personnel responded to 4,221 calls in 2018 – 5.3% higher than the previous year. We live by our core values of professionalism, safety, teamwork, integrity, and community.  More information on Fire District 3 can be found on its website www.fire3.org.

The City of Battle Ground, located in the heart of Clark County, Wash., serves 21,500 residents.  The surrounding natural beauty, access to recreation activities, and close proximity to the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area make Battle Ground a desirable place to live and has created a period of considerable growth. The City functions under a Council-Manager form of government and provides vital public services such as police, planning and development, roads, parks, utilities and others. City leaders operate under guiding principles that were created with community input through a recent visioning process. More information about the City, including a list of its guiding principles can be found at www.cityofbg.org.