The Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety commissioners voted unanimously to contract for services with the Kent-based Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority.
The 20-year contract, approved on May 31, still needs to be approved by the Puget Sound RFA Governance Board at its June 6 meeting. When approved, the contract goes into effect on Oct. 1.
The contract for services is similar to one that the city of SeaTac began with Puget Sound Fire in 2014. SeaTac pays Puget Sound Fire about $9 million per year for fire services.
Maple Valley Fire will pay $8.5 million per year for the Puget Sound Fire services, said spokesman Kyle Ohashi. Maple Valley Fire is funded through property taxes. Voters in November approved a property tax levy lift to put the rate at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Puget Sound Fire protects 60 square miles that include the cities of SeaTac, Kent, Covington and King County Fire District 37 (Lake Youngs area) with approximately 220 firefighters and 40 civilian staff.
Voters in Kent, Covington and Fire District 37 approved the formation of the RFA in 2010, which meant splitting the fire department off from the city of Kent. Fire officials proposed the RFA in order to levy a property tax as well a new fire-benefit charge. The fire-benefit charge is a variable rate based on the square footage and the amount of service provided to each house or business.
The new contract between Puget Sound Fire and Maple Valley Fire is expected to save about $1.2 million during the first year, according to a Maple Valley Fire & Life media release. Maple Valley will be able to purchase some much needed equipment and take advantage of “economies of scale,” which allows per-unit cost savings, due to being part of a larger purchasing group – similar to the idea why people shop at big-box stores and buy in large quantities, . The contract will also eliminate any more temporary station closings like the district saw last year.
The day-to-day operations of the department will not change. The public can expect the same high level of service that they have come to expect from their firefighters. In addition, the reserve firefighters (formerly called “volunteer”) will continue to play an important role in protecting the northern portions of the district as they always have.
Maple Valley Fire Chief Aaron Tyerman and Puget Sound Fire Chief Matt Morris said that they expect a smooth transition because of the ongoing cooperation between the organizations and that fact that the two agencies work and train together on a regular basis. Both agencies are members of the South King County Fire Training Consortium, so the firefighters are trained to the same high level which allows them to work seamlessly at incidents.
For more information, go online to maplevalleyfire.org and the Maple Valley Fire Facebook page for updates.