Monday marks the last day to register for a special election on April 28 on a plan to restructure fire services for north Clark County.
On the table is a measure that would consolidate a few fire agencies into a single regional fire authority that would service Woodland, Ridgefield and La Center. Battle Ground would also work with the agency through a contract.
The proposal would erase some key boundaries in a 162-mile service area for Clark County Fire & Rescue, Clark County fire districts 2 and 11 and the city of Woodland.
Advocates say the altered structure would streamline fire services for north Clark County and allow responders to get to the scene of an emergency quicker. But the new approach would also come at a cost to the city of Woodland.
In February, Mayor Grover Laseke warned the city councilors that the election and implementation process will leave the city with a roughly $221,700 operating budget shortfall next year. With approval, the fire structure would take effect on July 1, and the city will be forced to plug that budget hole.
Funding for the new fire authority would come from a property tax levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed home value for homeowners in the service area. The rate equates to $375 a year for home valued at $250,000.
If the measure passes, city and fire district levies would be reduced to offset the new cash flow from the fire authority’s levy.
The city of Woodland has been planning to shake up its fire services for the past several years. The change would address a long-running struggle to fully staff and fund the city’s fire department.
The new structure would give Woodland city officials more control over the system. It would be run by five commissioners, including two from Woodland.
Online registration for the election at clarkvotes.org closes at midnight on Monday. Mail-in registration forms must be postmarked by that day, as well.
Only voters in the service area are eligible to cast ballots. Those who haven’t already registered to vote in Washington have some extra time — through April 20 — to square things away in person with the County Elections Department at 1408 Franklin St., in Vancouver.