You’re calling 911 because you have a medical emergency in your home. You live two blocks from the fire station, but it takes 20 minutes for the paramedics to arrive from a station 5 miles away. What happened? Chances are your local fire crew was tied up at another emergency call. That is happening about 20% of the time right now.
This is one of many scenarios that Fire Chief Dan Olsen explained that challenges the service levels for Central Pierce Fire and Rescue (CPFR).
CPFR provides assistance for 911 calls regarding public safety, emergency services and fire prevention in a large area from Elk Plain on the south to the north edge of the Puyallup River above and including being annexed to the City of Puyallup. They also deal with Fire Code issues, water supply and keeping an eye on fire code enforcement.
Central Pierce is a combination of urban, suburban and rural land. The growth in the unincorporated area has put pressure on their services. The Chief has had discussions with Pierce County Planning regarding the Centers and Corridors Proposal. Water availability, fire flow, building proximities like zero lot lines, neighboring structures under 10 feet away, and the limited ability of ladder trucks to reach over the 65 feet proposed in the plan are all issues of concern. The possible movement to create 85 foot building heights in the district would require sprinkler systems to be added to the future buildings.
CPFR is a property tax dependent agency. 80% of their funding is from the EMS Levy. Initiative 747 and the economic downturn of 2008 combined to change the Levy rate to $0.843338/1000.
Proposition 1, on your April 23, 2019 mail in ballot restores that rate to $1/1000 assessed valuation. This proposition is what is called a “levy lid lift,’ a term that originated with Initiative 747.
For a $250,000 house, your current levy is $210.83/year. With the levy lift, it returns to the $1.00 of assessed valuation and would cost $250.00 per year. That is $39.17 per year or $3.26/month if it passes.
CPFR also has a Fire Benefit Charge that requires reauthorization every 6 years. That proposition will come up again in a couple years.
The busiest time of day for the firefighters and paramedics is between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The department often handles calls that are non-urgent medical calls, called low acuity calls. The levy would assist with addressing this by providing two units to address these calls that include flu-like symptoms, falls, minor cuts and diabetic issues.
The department responded to about 30,000 calls in 2018. Calls have increased about 14% since 2011. If the levy passes (it needs 50% approval), the department plans to launch a program called Citizen Advocates for and Education Services (CARES) program to assist those calling 911 to find resources for the other services they need that are outside the scope of the department. That will make units more available for the emergency calls that are needed.
The ballots were mailed a few days ago and the election cycle ends at 8 p.m. on April 23, 2019. Ballots need to be postmarked on or before April 23 to be valid or placed in the Voting receptacle at the Roy-Y Park & Ride or the Parkland-Spanaway Library.