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Fire district board approves levy run

The South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday night to approve the fire district’s plan for an Emergency Medical Services levy next year.

If approved by voters, the plan would set in motion one of two options for the six-year levy, which would raise $11.9 million and add 24 firefighters to the district’s ranks. One option would build a brand-new fire station in Manchester, while the second would remodel the existing one.

“Option 1 assumes we receive a SAFER grant (to help pay the salaries of the new staff members) and therefore have enough money to build a new facility,” said SKFR Chief Wayne Senter, explaining that option 2 assumes that the district did not receive the grant and would therefore remodel the existing volunteer station in Manchester instead.

The district has identified a site in Manchester on Woods Road for a new station, and Senter said that borrowing $5 million at 5-percent interest would cover purchasing the property, constructing the new building and acquiring both a new tender and new EMS unit.

At the meeting Oct. 9, Manchester resident Don Rude urged the board to give careful consideration to the levy, particularly given the nation’s current financial situation.

“I hope you commissioners can hold the tax base down, because things are going to get tough,” Rude said. “Asking for a lot of money now is bad.”

Rude also said he believed Woods Road was a “bad location” for a fire station, and that it would make much more sense to remodel the current volunteer station near Yukon Harbor on Southworth Drive, which the district plans to do if it does not receive the anticipated grant.

Chief Senter thanked Rude for his comments, and responded by saying that he and the board were “painfully aware of the economic situation, and our need to renew the levy couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“We are very fearful, because if the levy does not pass, it will decimate the fire department,” he continued. “If the money is not renewed, it goes away.”

Commissioner Dusty Wiley, sitting in for board President Paul Golnik, said the location of the new fire station, if one is built, is not set in stone.

“It’s something we’re looking at, because it is the best location for getting to the north part of Manchester,” Wiley said, describing the surrounding community as one that is not only getting older, but as “really at the end of the world, as far as South Kitsap is concerned.”

Senter agreed that nothing is set in stone, and that the board would continue to welcome comments from the public as it determines the best plan of action.

“There is never a perfect solution when we try and move forward,” he said. “But we are thoughtfully considering all the pluses and minuses, and your comments will help us do that.”

Since the deadline for next year’s SAFER grants has already passed, Senter said his district has already applied in anticipation of the levy passing, as it did for its last successful levy.

Both options for the new levy, planned for a vote next May, would add a total of 24 new firefighter/EMTs by 2013.

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