Guest op-ed: Thoughts on proposed fire merger from two board commissioners

Rick Webster chairs the Northshore Fire Department Board of Commissioners. Roger Collins chairs the Woodinville Fire & Rescue Board of Commissioners.

By Rick Webster, Northshore Fire Department Board of Commissioners,

and Roger Collins, Woodinville Fire & Rescue Board of Commissioners

For over two and a half years, the Northshore Fire Department and Woodinville Fire & Rescue have been working toward asking the public to consider a merger of our fire districts. The merger will be on the April 27 Special Election ballot for voter consideration.

Northshore merging with Woodinville has the potential to reduce property taxes without reducing operations at fire stations or staffing. Many fire agencies in King and Snohomish counties have done the same with great success.

An independent third-party financial firm identified that both Northshore and Woodinville property taxpayers are projected to see a reduction in property taxes with this merger. Details of these findings are on the Northshore website at . Additionally, if approved, Northshore residents would fall under Woodinville’s policy of no cost patient transport. Currently, Northshore primarily utilizes private ambulance companies.

Merging would allow us the opportunity to reorganize the same number of firefighters to add an extra response unit at times to handle emergency calls. This deployment of emergency response personnel is projected to reduce overtime costs, funded by taxpayers, which were almost $1.8 million for both agencies in 2020.

The Northshore Board of Commissioners petitioned to merge into Woodinville Fire & Rescue to give Northshore residents the opportunity to vote on the merger. Because the Northshore Fire Department would be merging into Woodinville Fire & Rescue, all union firefighters in the new combined agency would work under Woodinville’s labor contract.

We recognize that there is a great deal of tension and uncertainty with the labor unions. We want to go on record as saying that, if the merger passes, both Boards and fire department administration remain dedicated to addressing the labor unions’ concerns and reaching an amicable agreement without pay or benefit loss. While we disagree with the labor unions’ strategy, tactics, and reasons for opposing the merger, we hold our firefighters in the highest regard for their commitment to the communities we serve.

Labor and management both have roles to play in a balanced delivery of service to residents. We ask that you review the information from both sides carefully and cast your vote based on what is in the best interest for you and your family.

Rick Webster has lived in Kenmore for 37 years, and chairs the Northshore Fire Department Board of Commissioners. Roger Collins is a 35-year resident of Woodinville and chairs the Woodinville Fire & Rescue Board of Commissioners.