Even before the final ballots were tallied, it was clear Key Peninsula voters turned out in sufficient numbers to overwhelmingly approve the four-year maintenance and operations levy for Key Peninsula Fire District 16 on the Aug. 2 ballot. The levy passed with an approval rate of 69.72 percent, the largest margin of victory for a FD 16 M&O levy on record, according to the Pierce County Auditor.
“We felt confident we had good support from the community prior to the vote, but with the levy passing by such a large margin, it was truly humbling,” said Assistant Chief Hal Wolverton. “We would have lost eight positions without this levy approval,” he said.
FD 16, like other fire protection districts in unincorporated Pierce County, is largely dependent upon the regular passage of M&O and EMS property tax levies, each running in four-year cycles. Unlike fire departments located within city limits, FD 16 does not capture any portion of sales tax revenue generated by Key Peninsula shoppers. The emergency services funding mechanisms differ from county to county within the state. For example, a portion of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is funded by sales taxes collected in unincorporated Pierce County.
“This really speaks to how important it is to be connected with the community,” said Chief Guy Allen. “Thanks to this approval, we’re able to look into the future so we have plans 5, 10, even 15 years out. We will continue laying the foundation for others to follow so that when projects present themselves we are able to do it.”
Sometimes unplanned things affect those plans.
“During an annual pump testing required to maintain our insurance rating, we had a catastrophic failure of a tender pump” in early August, Allen said. “That 36-year-old vehicle will go into surplus to get it out of our fleet. We’re down to two tenders. One of the things we had in motion already was to replace that tender by 2017, but that may have to be moved up to see if we can get another tender in here for the summer months. To keep costs down, we may be able to piggyback onto another fire department’s bid,” he said.