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Port issues its support for South Kitsap fire levy

The Port of Bremerton commissioners have officially declared their support for South Kitsap Fire and Rescue’s proposed temporary levy lid lift that will be up for a vote this May.

In a resolution approved on Feb. 17, the commissioners endorsed the lift, which they described as an increase of 14 cents — from a projected $1.05 up to $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed valuaton — which will begin in 2007 and continue for six years, allowing the district to hire nine additional firefighter/emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

“The Port of Bremerton is the legal representative for property and commerce owned and operated by the Port at Bremerton National Airport, Olympic View Business and Industrial Park and in the city of Port Orchard,” the commissioners stated in the resolution. “We believe it is essential and necessary for the protection of the public health, life and property that we maintain reasonable response times for ... calls for help.”

Stating that since the Port and its tenants do “from time to time,” require the services of SKF&R, the board intended to “support the district’s efforts to keep up with the population growth and demand for services.”

SKR&R Chief Wayne Senter said the lid lift he will be asking voters to approve May 16 will be used to hire nine additional firefighter/EMTs for six years, which will cost approximately $4.8 million.

“I promise our constituents that I will not take a penny more than what is needed to pay for those nine,” he said, explaining that spread over six years, the salary costs amount to $794,877 annually.

Although the district was approved last month to receive a federal grant —known as the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) — that would pay a portion of each new firefighter/EMT’s salary for four years, Senter said he was asking voters for the full amount in case the funding falls through.

That way, he said, he can keep the new staff even if the government announces a year or two from now that the grant money is no longer available. As long as the grant money is provided, however, Senter said he will not need and will not use the full amount of the levy increase.

The SAFER grant awards the district $100,000 each to hire nine additional firefighters, for a total of $900,000. Since the grant is paid out over four years, the grant is intended to only partially, not entirely, cover their salaries.

Since Senter estimated that the average firefighter salary — when the costs of benefits, equipment and training are factored in — ranges from $60,000 to $75,000 a year, the grant will at most cover half a new staff member’s salary for the first year.

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