Douglas County Fire District #2 constituents,
Since the successful passage of the six-year levy lid lift in 2015, Douglas County Fire District #2 (District) has been implementing priorities that were established during a lengthy long-range planning process. These were determined to be increased staffing, apparatus and equipment, and facilities.
Increased Staffing: Five new career firefighters have been hired. A new volunteer resident program was established, bringing on eight new resident firefighters. Recruitment of volunteer firefighters continues to be ongoing.
Apparatus and Equipment: A second rescue vehicle was purchased that will soon be placed into service. Specifications will be drawn up for new fire engines and a ladder truck, either for replacement or addition.
Facilities: Two properties have been selected for locating future fire stations, one in Rock Island and one for the northern part of the District. For the latter, property was purchased along NW Cascade Avenue directly north of Goldcrest Street.
The District recently erected a sign on the newly acquired property on NW Cascade advertising the site of Station 4 which generated some questions and concerns expressed by surrounding residents. Listed below are answers to those concerns
- Building site does not allow for expansion:
The lot size on NW Cascade is two (2) acres. In our opinion, this site is appropriate to our operations, including future expansion and Rock Island.
- Request to swap land and move to the other side of 35th NW street:
A resident indicated from previous contact with the property manager of the vacant acreage north of Goldcrest St. that the owner, Confluence Health, would be open to the idea of a land swap. There would be no objection to an exchange, but it would have to be at no cost to the District. A lot of time and money has already been invested to acquire the property. To move forward with a land swap, Confluence Health would have to take on the same financial burdens to make an even exchange. Throughout our previous discussions, Confluence Health had maintained a position that they were unwilling to invest any money on the land improvements.
- No sidewalks make it dangerous for children:
The District is mandated by Douglas County to provide half of the road improvements on the west side of NW Cascade Ave. from the intersection of 35th NW St. to the north side of Goldcrest St. The County will be constructing an extension of 35th NW St. from NW Cascade down to NW Empire. This extension will have gutters, curbs, and sidewalks on both sides.
- The District disregarded rules and regulations:
Concerns were expressed that the District was not adhering to state and local rules and regulations. In response, the District is required to follow all state and local laws, rules, and ordinances. It is not exempt from any of these. Specifically, the concerns and responses addressing each is as follows:
a. “Proper setbacks were not provided.”
Response - Douglas County Transportation and Land Services (TLS) advised a twenty-five-foot (25’) setback was required from any residential area.
b. “No green belt.”
Response - There will be a landscaping requirement. There is no “green belt” or “transitional area” requirement to our knowledge.
c. “No sewer”
Response - The District will be required to hook up to the sewer as soon as it becomes available.
d. “Wrong septic system placement.”
Response - The septic system is under design that will allow for easy conversion to the sewer system when it is in place.
e. “Dust and erosion control not provided during construction.”
Response - Once construction plans are submitted with a building permit application, there will be additional requirements to control dust and run off from the property during construction.
f. “Environmental site assessments were not conducted.”
Response - The District was not required to complete a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) environmental review. It had already been completed during the North End Master Site Plan. View the report at the following web page: http://www.douglascountywa.net/docs/default-source/tls/planning/growth-management/north-end-planned-action.pdf. The District did conduct an environmental site assessment (ESA) that identified requirements during construction that will be used to mitigate contaminated soil caused by years of agriculture use.
- No notification, lack of public participation or “teamwork”:
Securing land for the future station site for the northern part of the District started in 2015. That year, the District went to the public and asked for and successfully received an increase in the District’s tax levy. Part of the election process was forming a Citizen Advisory Committee comprised of members of the District and individuals living within its boundaries. There has been over twenty (20) public meetings since March of 2015 in which a new station was discussed in some way. Two public newsletters were sent out in the last year that included information regarding plans for new fire stations. The District believes it has been transparent regarding future facilities.
- Increase in diesel exhaust and noise:
Modern fire apparatus is required to have a system in place to reduce the amount of diesel exhaust that is released by the vehicle. The system utilizes diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to help burn the excessive diesel exhaust before it is released into the atmosphere. As the District wishes to be good neighbors, we will be cognizant of the noise we produce. Our training is performed mostly during the daytime and could be any day of the week. The configuration of the streets around the location of the fire station do not allow fire apparatus to gain much speed which helps reduce noise.
- Flashing lights from fire engines during responses:
The use of sirens and flashing lights will be used with due regard to possible disruptions when traveling through residential neighborhoods. Again, we want to be good neighbors.
- Negative effects on residential values:
One resident in the neighborhood indicated he was having difficulty obtaining a loan or an appraisal to remodel his home due to the fire station (a commercial building) going in next to his property. The property owned by the District is zoned for commercial occupancies. Whether it is a fire station or a big box store, it is anticipated that some type of commercial building(s) or multiple-story, multiple-family apartments will be built in that area.
- Tax increases:
Another individual indicated that since the levy lid lift proposed by the District passed in 2015, his taxes went up from around $1000 to over $2000. The impact on the levy rate for fire protection is actually an increase from 76 cents to $1.35 for every $1,000 in assessed value over a six-year period. In 2016, the levy rate increased to $1.10. Over the next five years (2017-2021), the District will collect an additional $0.05 each year. Example: For a home assessed value of $250,000, the District received $190 in 2015 ($250,000 x .001 x $0.76). In 2021, the same home would pay $337.50 ($250,000 x .001 x $1.35) for fire protection. This would be an increase of $147.50 over six years (which averages out to a tax increase of $24.58 each year).
- The data doesn’t support a fire station in that area:
There are many factors that go into site selection for a fire station including access to arterial roads, separation distance between stations, land availability, population density, commercial density, and future development of vacant land. Using just the incident response data since January 1, 2016, the area generally north of 27th NE Street (Zone 4) is the third busiest area in the District, followed by Rock Island. Both areas have been targeted as areas that require new fire stations to keep up with growth.
Further questions or concerns, please contact me at (509) 884-6671 or email to email@example.com.