East County Fire & Rescue bond failing; Bartel, Town win

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
photoLarry Bartel
photoDavid Town

Voters decided against spending up to $1.275 million on 20-year capital improvement bonds for East County Fire & Rescue, according to Tuesday night's initial election results. The fire protection district covers a 35,545-acre area that includes 3,605 housing units in east Clark County around Camas and Washougal.

One vote separated the results; 745 voted in favor while 746 were opposed to the bond. However, Proposition 1 needed 60 percent of the vote to pass. It would have collected additional taxes to make repairs and replace outdated equipment, including two fire engines.

The election results diverged from a survey sent out in July that had favorable results for the proposition. In the survey, 57.6 percent of respondents were in favor of supporting the entire bond amount.

Chief Scott Koehler said he's waiting to see if more votes come in that may sway the results in a favorable direction. Otherwise, the department could only purchase new equipment if assessed values climb significantly, he said. However, three grant-funded firefighter positions will run out in mid-2014, so any additional money would aim to keep those positions, Koehler said.

"I think it was a good educational opportunity so customers understand the challenges we face," he said of putting the bond on the ballot.

The department has applied for an annual grant for the past four years to get a new engine and plans to reapply this year. Two engines are 18 and 20 years old, while Koehler said the Washington State Survey and Rating Bureau suggests keeping apparatus for 15 years.

Voters approved the current leadership on the board that oversees the fire protection district. Incumbents Martha Martin and Victor Rasmussen led their opponents by wide margins.

Rasmussen, who's been on the board 31 years, said this was the first time someone tried to run against him. Although he was pleased with the outcome of the commissioner race, he had hoped to pass Proposition No. 1.

"We really wanted the voters to look at it," Rasmussen said. "We will keep equipment running one way or another."

CCF&R results

Come January, Clark County Fire & Rescue will usher in two new fire commissioners.

Larry Bartel and David Town, who campaigned together, led the polls Tuesday night. In the race for Position 5, Bartel earned 66.2 percent to 33.2 percent for longtime Commissioner Michael Lambrecht.

Bartel, a retired Clark County Fire & Rescue deputy chief, said he was excited to join the board and improve the department.

Town had 55.8 percent in the race for Position 1 with 43.6 percent for Frank Mazna. Both bested Commissioner Richard Britschgi in the primary election.

"The Bartel name in Clark County is a big name. Running together definitely helped my voting results," Town said.