Ballot item to decide fire station annexation

"The papers are drawn up and the figures seem to please everyone on the Langley City Council and the Fire Protection District 3 Board of Commissioners.All they need now is the voters.During July, August and September, the two elected bodies negotiated terms for the possible annexation of the Langley Fire Department by Fire Protection District 3. Voters in both the city and the district must vote on the annexation to give it final approval or disapproval Nov. 2.Talk of annexation began prior to this summer, when the Langley City Council decided it needed to find a way to bring full-time, paid administration into the fire department. The department is behind on keeping up with state fire regulations, something the department’s current volunteer chief attributed to the lack of full-time leadership. After deciding that a paid chief would cost the city more than it could afford, members of the council approached Fire Protection District 3 in July with a proposal to annex the 86-year-old department to the district. Fire District 3 covers all of South Whidbey outside of Langley.If the voters approve the annexation, the cost to Langley’s taxpayers for fire protection will be higher, but not as high as hiring a chief for the department, proponents say.For the past two years, Langley residents have paid a levy of 33 cents per $1,000 of valuation on their property to pay down a bond used to refurbish the fire station. If voters in the city and the fire district approve the annexation, that levy will be replaced by the standard FD 3 levy. This year, residents living within FD3 paid 82 cents per $1,000 valuation.But, because budgets are written a year in advance, Langley taxpayers will continue to pay just 33 cents until the start of 2001.Those currently living inside FD 3 could also see higher costs in the future. The district will take over the $170,000 remaining on Langley’s bond debt in exchange for all the equipment and vehicles owned by the Langley Fire Department. In addition to that expense, it will also have to rent the fire department building -- which will remain city property -- to the tune of $2,500 a month. The district will pay $1,000 a month for the first three years of its six-year lease of the fire hall to offset the difference in value between the equipment it could receive and the debt it could incur.The wording of the annexation ballot question will be the same for both Langley and fire district voters. If approved, the annexation will be effective as of Nov. 3."

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