City of Lynnwood votes to move forward with Regional Fire Authority development

firedistrict1_logo-1fire-banner-01_cropAfter several years of on-and-off discussions, the Lynnwood City Council voted Monday night to move forward with the development of a Regional Fire Authority, which would essentially combine Lynnwood Fire with Snohomish County Fire District 1.

The Lynnwood City Council voted Monday to adopt a resolution to form a planning committee to develop a Regional Fire Authority Plan, which will be presented to area voters in 2017. Fire District 1’s Board has also passed a similar resolution.

Conversations about regionalizing fire services began in 1972 and have continued on and off to this day. Three years ago, the City of Lynnwood decided not to participate in the creation of a Regional Fire Authority due to a number of unanswered questions and funding issues. The conversation continued between Mountlake Terrace, Brier and Fire District 1. Last year, the City of Lynnwood began looking at different fire service options, acknowledging that expected growth in the area would create certain challenges for Lynnwood Fire. Earlier this year, Lynnwood Fire Chief Scott Cockrum was selected to serve as the chief of both Lynnwood Fire and Fire District 1 as the two entities combined administrative forces.

“With the blended management agreement, we’ve already begun taking steps to increase efficiencies and reduce redundancies between our two agencies,” said Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith. “We look forward to continuing this work through the Planning Committee in order to provide our Lynnwood and South Snohomish County residents more efficient and sustainable emergency services.”

A Regional Fire Authority (RFA) is a special-purpose district created by a vote of the people to consolidate and regionalize fire and emergency services. State law provides the framework for cities, towns and fire districts to consider forming a RFA as a way to gain service efficiencies through consolidation while retaining local control. This process has been used to successfully establish RFAs throughout the state and locally in Kent, South King County, North Snohomish County, Auburn (Valley RFA), and most recently in Renton.

The Regional Fire Authority Planning Committee will consist of three Lynnwood elected Officials: Councilmember Ian Cotton, Councilmember George Hurst and Mayor Nicola Smith; and three Fire District 1 Commissioners: Jim Kenny, Jim McGaughey and Bob Meador. The committee plans to set a meeting date for later this month to begin working on a plan to take to voters to establish a Regional Fire Authority encompassing the City of Lynnwood and Fire District 1. The plan will include proposed governance, financing, operations and service levels.

“We look forward to working with Lynnwood to come up with a regional fire service plan to take to voters that will enhance emergency services for all residents of South Snohomish County,” said McGaughey, chair of the Fire District 1 Board of Commissioners.

The Lynnwood Fire Department operates two fire stations with 56 employees to serve more than 36,000 residents within the city limits. Fire District 1 operates 12 fire stations with 241 employees to serve nearly 200,000 residents in unincorporated communities as well as the cities of Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. These partner cities have service contracts with Fire District 1 that would transfer to a RFA.

“These cities are valued, regional partners in our fire service and we will keep them informed every step of the way. The RFA plan will be written to allow any of these cities to join the RFA at a later date if they choose to do so,” McGauhey said.

All meetings of the RFA Planning Committee will be open to the public. A website is being developed to keep the public informed during this process.

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