Tax increase will support new fire hall construction
The Okanogan County Fire District 6 commissioners’ meeting on Feb 25 lasted only 14 minutes, but that was long enough to make some important decisions.
The commissioners quickly came to a consensus on plans for building a new fire station in Winthrop. They passed motions to put a levy “lid lift” tax on the April special elections ballot, actions that were welcomed by applause from those in attendance.
On the April 28 ballot, the district will ask voters to approve a property tax increase of 17.5 cents to the existing levy of 65.5 cents, resulting in a permanent levy of 83 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, with the tax increase starting in 2021.
“We’ve had open houses, public meetings, and have gone through the process, and determined it’s still the best location, and the need is still there,” said Chief Cody Acord.
This levy lid lift will go toward funding construction of the new station, with construction costs anticipated to be $4.034 million. Funding for the new station will also be covered in part by the fire district ,which will pay about $600,000 from funds provided in a $1.8 million grant from the Bruno and Evelyne Betti Foundation. The grant is dependent on the district’s levy proposal being approved by voters (a majority approval is required, but not a “super majority” of 60 percent).
The commissioners also considered a 20-year bond issue proposal for the April ballot, but chose the levy lid option. The decision was influenced, in part, by feedback from public meetings held by the district. “The public came out to support going for a levy [lid lift],” said Acord.
The proposed fire house is slated to be built in Winthrop on Horizon Flats Road, a site purchased by the fire district in 2009.
An agreement between the district and the Town of Winthrop is being drawn up regarding funding for required improvements, from a state SEPA checklist, to Horizon Flats Road. The agreement pertains to the district providing a match to grant funding that the town is working towards securing of $700,000. The agreement between the district and the town will state that the district will provide a portion of the grant match, up to but not succeeding $10,000, according to Winthrop Town Planner Rocklynn Culp.
“I feel like the community has a better understanding of the need of what the fire district is asking for,” said Acord. “I’m feeling better about this [ballot option, but] you never know until the vote comes across, of course.”