Looks Like South King Fire & Rescue Levy Will Pass; Det. Awarded a SAFER Grant
It looks like South King Fire & Rescue has passed their recent Maintenance and Operations Levy, with a current overwhelming “Yes” vote of 61% and a “No” vote of 39% as of Aug. 10:
South King Fire & Rescue Proposition No. 1 – Tax Levy for Maintenance and Operations
- Yes: 11087 / 60.99%
- No: 7091 / 39.01
Because the measure requires a supermajority of 60% to pass, they will await official certification from King County Elections. Until then, they tell The Waterland Blog that they are “cautiously optimistic.” They have trended upward in their passing percentage from an election night approval of 60.55%.
“Thank you to our citizens for their awesome support of the Maintenance and Operations levy,” said Fire Chief Al Church. “We will do our part to continue providing the high level of emergency response and that our community has expected and seen for the past 63 years”.
Meanwhile, South King Fire sat on pins and needles until the 13th round of Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant awards on Aug. 10 to hear that they were approved for two years of funding on nine firefighter/EMT positions. They waited as more than 240 other fire departments received awards ahead of them. Being one of the final recipients of the award meant that South King Fire would not have to make a final decision of whether or not to accept the award until they knew the outcome of their Maintenance and Operations levy.
Without the levy passing, South King Fire would have had to turn down the award or modify it because of the staffing retention requirement. This requirement would have forced South King Fire to fill currently vacated positions with their own funds prior to hiring the grant funded positions. This would have obligated them to dip farther into cash reserves and the department was not inclined to do so because of the amount of cash reserves needed to sustain emergency operations since the grant period opened in January.
South King Fire explored every funding mechanism available to them when faced with a huge decline in revenue that threatened to downsize their emergency response capability to the citizens of the fire district. One part time aid unit and one full time aid unit were closed due to vacated positions that went unfilled. The Maintenance and Operations levy was presented as a means to re-staff one of the closed aid units. The SAFER Grant would fill 9 of the 16 vacant positions but would not be able to open the aid unit full time due to additional vacated positions since the SAFER Grant final submittal was made in February. The department was also concerned that they would not be able to continue to fund the SAFER Grant positions after the 2 year period due to a continued decline in revenues. The 4 year Maintenance and Operations levy will ensure those positions stay filled for the duration.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) implements and administers the (SAFER) Grants. SAFER Grants provide financial assistance to directly fund fire departments in order to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, “front line” firefighter/EMTs available in their communities through new hiring or filling of positions that were vacated through attrition. SAFER intends to restore local fire departments’ staffing and deployment capabilities so they may more effectively respond to emergencies. With restored staffing levels, grantees could see a reduction in their response times and an increase in the number of trained personnel assembled at the incident scene. While not required for a SAFER Grant, it is preferable that the enhanced or restored staffing levels of all SAFER Grantees should improve the safety of firefighters by ensuring all first-arriving apparatus are staffed with a minimum of four qualified personnel (to meet NFPA standards) who are capable of initiating the suppression response. South King Fire & Rescue will rarely be able to achieve this preference and responds typically with only three firefighters.