Ballots are due Tuesday in a special election that will decide the future of north Clark County’s fire services.
Under the measure, Clark County Fire & Rescue, Clark County Fire District 2 and the city of Woodland would consolidate their finances and fire resources into a new regional fire authority servicing a 162-square-mile area.
The agency would provide fire and emergency medical responses to Woodland, Ridgefield, La Center and some unincorporated parts of north county. Though the city of Battle Ground has stayed out of the process, it would get help from the new agency through a contract.
Supporters say combining the agencies would streamline services and allow emergency crews to speed up response times. If the measure passes, it’ll go into effect July 1.
The downside is that the move would also come at a cost to the city of Woodland. Two months ago, Mayor Grover Laseke cautioned the city council that the election and the consolidation process would likely leave the city with an operating budget shortfall around $221,700 next year.
That said, the city has been looking to change its fire services for several years. The city has long struggled to fully staff and fund its fire stations. Looking to save some money, the city began contracting with Clark County Fire & Rescue in 2013.
The new structure would also hand over more control to Woodland residents, who currently have no representation on Clark County Fire & Rescue’s board. The fire authority would be run by five commissioners, including two from Woodland.
The new agency would get its funding from a property tax levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed home value for homeowners in the service area. The rate comes out to $375 a year for home valued at $250,000.
If the proposal passes, current city and fire district levies would be reduced to offset the new revenue stream. Service costs would stay the same for most residents in the area.
Nearly 19,700 Clark County residents are eligible to vote in the special election. So far, about 3,650 have returned their ballots to the county elections department.
For more information on the proposed regional fire authority, visit clarkfr.org.