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Jan. 25, 2020

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Battle Ground, Fire District 3 asking voters to OK annexation

Officials say it would boost safety, control costs

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:

City and fire officials agree: Voters should support Clark County Fire District 3 annexing the city of Battle Ground into its coverage area.

“Our current partnership has been great, but the (annexation) would benefit us both,” said Battle Ground City Manager Erin Erdman. “It will divert funding for needed projects, including public safety; and for the fire district, it makes long-term planning more efficient.”

Battle Ground contracts with the fire district to provide fire and medical emergency services to the city. A proposition will appear on the Feb. 11 special election ballot for Battle Ground and Brush Prairie voters, asking for the annexation.

Ballots are expected to be mailed to all registered voters by Jan. 24. The proposition requires a simple majority to pass.

Unlike other Clark County communities, Battle Ground does not have a fire department nor is it part of a fire district. It was served by Clark County Fire & Rescue until 2016 before switching to Clark County Fire District 3. The district covers about 90 square miles and roughly 40,000 people, half from Battle Ground and half from the other areas, including Hockinson.

Annexation open houses

Where: City Hall Room 148, 109 S.W. First St., Battle Ground.

When: 6 to 7 p.m. Jan. 21 and noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 29.

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Where: Fire Station 35, 505 S.W. First St., Battle Ground.

When: 5 p.m. Jan. 26 and at 6 p.m. Feb. 4.

Currently, property owners in Battle Ground pay a property tax to the city, and then the city pays the fire district to provide its services. That contract expires in 2021 and must be renegotiated if an alternative isn’t found.

Garnering enough money to prevent a reduction in services — whether that’s fire response, police or parks — is the primary reason officials are asking residents there to agree to the change.

Erdman said the fire district contract is getting close to exceeding the city’s property tax revenues, taking up $1.35 of the city’s $1.37 per $1,000 general property tax levy.

Property owners in the fire district already pay a fire levy, which would not increase.

If annexed, property owners in the city would pay a projected $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value — the same amount as district property owners, officials said.

To offset the cost of the new fire levy, Battle Ground plans to decrease its utility tax for water, sewer and stormwater drainage by 46 percent.

City tax revenue freed up by the levy would go toward police services, street maintenance and preservation projects, sidewalks, parks maintenance and planning and “public programs,” Erdman said.

“We can catch up on deferred projects,” she said.

Continued growth in the city has increased the need for police services, Erdman said. Extra revenue will help pay for additional officers for traffic patrols, investigations and the re-implementation of a K-9 program.

The fire district needs money for staff, apparatus and facilities, according to the fire chief.

“The district may be reluctant to take on a new levy, and that’s understandable. But, while it’s technically two different areas, we’re neighbors in need of the same things,” said Fire Chief Scott Sorenson.

Two fire crews are required in the city at night due to an ever-increasing call volume, Sorenson said.

The annexation would protect the current level and quality of services for people in both communities, and all property owners will be able to vote for fire commissioners, levies and bonds, Sorenson said.

Several open houses have been scheduled to provide information about the potential annexation. The meetings will take place in room 148 at Battle Ground City Hall, 109 S.W. First St., from 6 to 7 p.m. Jan. 21 and noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 29, according to a news release from the city and fire district. Two other meetings will be held at Fire Station No. 35 in Battle Ground at 5 p.m. Jan. 26 and at 6 p.m. Feb. 4.

Battle Ground residents can learn more at www.cityofbg.org/FireAnnexation or by contacting Erdman at 360-342-5005 or erin.erdman@cityofbg.org. Fire district residents can visit the district website or contact Sorenson at 360-892-2331 or scott@fire3.org.

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