Cheney Free Press -

By Lee Hughes
Staff Reporter 

ML OKs District 3 agreement

Contract bridges fire department annexation approval funding gap, other details

 

Last updated 5/16/2019 at 5:25pm



The big topic of the evening at the Medical Lake City Council meeting on May 7 was approval of a pre-annexation agreement between the city and Spokane Fire District 3. The city and the district will be asking voters to approve the annexation of the Medical Lake Fire Department into District 3 in an upcoming Aug. 6 special election.

Assuming approval by voters, the agreement outlines various transitional details, including a 50-year lease of the current MLFD space — at $1 per year — transfer of ownership of city fire fighting vehicles and equipment, and other details.

Once the Spokane County Auditor certifies the vote, District 3 would immediately begin providing fire and emergency medical services to Medical Lake, but won’t be able to legally collect taxes until 2021.

According to the agreement, to bridge that funding gap Medical Lake will continue to collect its current EMS levy of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, then hand that money over to District 3, plus any difference between that and the District 3 levy rate, which is $1.50 per $1,000.

The city will pay the difference from its general fund.

“The intent is to have that match our taxpayers current levy rates,” District 3 Chief Cody Rohrbach said.

District 3 will also receive any reimbursement paid to Medical Lake by the state for providing fire and EMS services related to Lakeland Village and Eastern State Hospital, according to the agreement.

District 3 has been in contact with the Department of Health and Human Services about reimbursement for providing services to those facilities, and is currently researching how other fire departments handle it before entering into their own negotiations for reimbursement.

Per the agreement, District 3 will lease the current MLFD facility for $1 per year for 50 years. As discussed in the meeting, the district plans to invest as much as $300,000 in the fire house to bring it current with building codes that will allow firefighters to be housed there.

“Our intent is to begin a significant investment in this facility immediately upon election certification,” Rohrbach said.

The district also plans to begin hiring additional firefighters.

The council approved the agreement unanimously.

After some discussion about its summer meeting schedule, the council voted to continue meeting twice per month until after the August annexation vote in order to be officially available to constituents, then once per month through September.

Council also discussed placing a ban on fireworks within city limits, and the timing of a vote and when the ban might go into affect. However, no action was taken.

The city’s “Spring Cleanup” on Saturday, May 4 was declared a success, although several on the council suggested changes that would improve the process, including better directional cones and signage.

City Administrator Doug Ross estimated the cost in city employee wages at $2,000 for the event.

Absent from the meeting were council members Tony Harbolt and A.J. Burton.

Lee Hughes can be reached at lee@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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