GRAHAM, WA –The Graham Fire & Rescue levy appears to be passing their four-year, $2.75 million per year maintenance and operations levy tonight.
Fire Protection District No. 21
Yes 3,363 58.58%
No 2,378 41.42%
Graham Fire has seen a decrease in assessed valuation of property in excess of 20% since 2008, which equates to a 20% decline in tax revenue used to operate the District. In that time, calls for service have increased more than 14% with a projected 3-6% annual increase. “We are tasked with protecting 61,000 citizens and running over 16 calls a day with just 11 firefighters and paramedics as our minimum daily staffing,” Chief Baskett said.
The District has attempted to avoid layoffs and reductions in services during the economic downturn by not replacing personnel who left through attrition, reorganized the administration of the department to put more people on the streets, cutting costs, employee concessions and depleting reserves down to the State Auditor recommended minimum level.
The new Thrift fire station originally staffed 85% of the time is now staffed less than 25% of the time. Overtime costs are up and mutual aid assistance from neighboring districts is out of balance and cannot be continued. Response times are getting longer, a warning sign the District can no longer adequately cover the calls for service. With these reductions and increased alarms, services to the citizens are being impacted.
The Fire District said it will hire 16 additional firefighters and paramedics with this levy. The increased staffing will allow 24/7 staffing of the Thrift station providing much-needed coverage to the east side of the District while keeping other units in their response areas. Two additional response units will be on the road daily, one of which will be a transport ambulance. These increases will allow Graham Fire to meet the current response needs of the community and reduce their dependency on mutual aid assistance.