Letter: South Whidbey fire department is overly focused on buildings


I generally vote for every community-related levy around here, but I’m skeptical of a huge one sought by our South Whidbey Fire District 3. Here’s why.

1- It’s a big increase. This requested levy lift pencils out to a whopping 48% increase next year as the tax levy jumps from $.81 to $1.2 for each $1,000 of house value, meaning a $500k house paying $405 year will be looking at $600/year.

2- It’s a pattern. When viewed through a historical lens, our fire district’s revenue has climbed from $600k in 1990 to $2.2m in 2012, $8m in 2023 and then this jump.

3- Empire building. Though the fire district is an asset to the community, their building ambitions cloud their purpose and the needs of this community at the expense of other higher local priorities. Specifically, four new fire stations have appeared in the last 22 years, each more palatial than the previous $349k in 1998 for a new Saratoga station

$1 million in 2002, for the new 8,000-square-foot Freeland station

$1.5 in 2008 for the new 5,000 square-foot Langley station

$6 million for a 16,000-square-foot Taj Mahal in Bayview 2019 (yes 16,000)

a Clinton station remodel

The county assessor has their fleet of buildings at $9 million.

3- Refocus. I would assume their mission involves safeguarding life, limb and property.

The most obvious and current threat to these treasures is those cascading effects from that climate change which is now breathing down our necks in the form of increased temperatures, erratic weather events, sea level rise, etc. The world has now hit that 1.5 degrees C, which is the historical average which the United Nations has warned “don’t go there.”

I’m baffled why the fire district recently ignored a chance for generous state grants to create resilience centers with solar panels with battery storage on the Island in response to climate challenges. I also question the absence of solar panels or ev’s in and around that $9 million of district real estate.

4- What next? Before asking for a 48% levy lift, let’s quit building and refocus on plans to both mitigate (reduce) and adapt (live with) these substantial climate challenges before us using that fine community presence our fire district delivers.

Dean Enell

South Whidbey