By Lane Gwinn
The Times 

CWWFD#2 ask community for "Lid Lift" on fire levy

The fire district invites the public to The Plaza on July 17 for a discussion and Q&A on the August 1 ballot proposition.

 

Kristin Darrow

A Walla Walla County resident watched the firefighters from local fire districts protect her home from a wheat field fire on July 11.

WAITSBURG-Tuesday afternoon, Waitsburg residents saw a familiar sight at harvest-three wildland engines and a tender heading towards a fire, with sirens blaring. The trucks left in quick succession from the Columbia Walla Walla Fire District #2 (CWWFD2) fire station, carrying eight volunteers who turned out for the call.

The call was for a standing wheat field fire on the west side of Lower Waitsburg Road in Fire District #7. The Waitsburg crew joined fire districts #7, 9, 4, City of Walla Walla, and College Place personnel.

The fire threatened structures, including Kristen Darrow's home, who described her experience in a letter to the editor on page 2. The firefighters were able to get the blaze under control in under three hours, returning safely to the station by 5 p.m.

These types of calls are a big part of the work volunteer firefighters provide to our community and adjacent districts.

The plume of smoke seen west of town was a reminder that it is up to taxpayers to do their part in supporting the CWWFD2 volunteers and their families.

Walla Walla County voters who live in the Columbia Walla Walla Fire District #2 service area will vote on a lid lift to its regular fire levy. The district, based in Waitsburg, provides EMS and fire service to residents in portions of Columbia and Walla Walla Counties. There are four regular levies that fund the district, two in each county, one for EMS, and one for fire services.

The district collects around $240,000 from the combined levies annually. The total dollar amount collected from the levies can only be increased by 1% annually on assessed value, excluding new construction. As the assessed property values rise, the levy rates are reduced to keep any increase to the dollar amount collected limited to 1%.

The CWWFD #2 is asking Walla Walla County voters to approve a "lid lift" to raise the levy rate in that county from $ 0.47 to $1.00 per $1,000 of assessed value. The one-dollar rate would become the basis for subsequent years.

According to CWWFD #2 Commissioner Matt Spring, the annual 1% increases have not been enough to keep up with inflation. Costs to effectively run the fire district, including maintaining and purchasing equipment, attracting and training volunteers, and handling increased call volume, have risen significantly.

The CWWFD#2 board and volunteers are hosting a public meeting at The Plaza in Waitsburg on July 17 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss and answer questions about the "lid lift" and the need for increased funding to keep the fire services up to date and effective. The ballots, including the levy proposition, were mailed out by the county on July 12 and must be mailed or dropped off by 8 p.m. on election day, August 1, 2023

 

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