The Aug.1 primary results are in, and local fire districts’ requests for more funds were honored strongly by voters as three levy measures passed.
North Country EMS excess levy passes with ease
North Country EMS’ excess property tax levy of $1.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to be collected next year passed without much friction. The measure was on the ballot for residents in both Clark County Emergency Medical Service District No. 1 and the town of Yacolt. As of The Reflector’s deadline, the proposition had a yes vote of 80 percent or better in both sections, while only 60 percent was needed for approval.
Funds from the levy will finance maintenance, operations and staff salaries for an estimated three-year period. According to Fire and EMS Chief Ben Peeler, the levy dollars make up 1/3 of North Country EMS’ operating budget and allow for two available ambulances 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The same levy was put before voters in 2014 and passed with a similar margin.
“It’s always very humbling,” Peeler said. “Eighty percent, you don’t always see numbers like that. The support we have from our service area is phenomenal.”
Cowlitz County Fire District 1 approves funding increase for first time in 36 years
Voters in Cowlitz County Fire District 1 — which is roughly the Woodland Bottoms, Green Mountain Road area, up Lewis River Road to just beyond Merwin Dam — have chosen to approve a levy lid lift from 88 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to $1.50. A simple majority was needed for passage, and as of The Reflector’s deadline, the measure had a 64 percent approval rate.
According to the fire district, most of the vehicles currently being used for emergency response are over 20 years old, and a significant amount of equipment no longer meets state standards. Funds from the levy will finance replacing outdated personal protective equipment. The eventual replacement of aging emergency vehicles is also planned.
Prior to passing the levy, a voter-approved funding increase in the district has not occurred since 1981.
Clark County Fire & Rescue levy lid lift passes
The 9-cent increase in property tax funding that Clark County Fire and Rescue put on the ballot joins the other two departments’ victories in levies this August.
The measure increased the levy rate from $1.41 per $1,000 of assessed value up to the cap of $1.50, which will help return staffing numbers to levels more in line with the department before the Great Recession.
The lid lift passed at a nearly two-to-one rate as by the second count (and last count before The Reflector
print deadline) there were 4,094 yes votes and 2,064 no votes.
CCF&R Chief John Nohr explained that the top priority is hiring firefighters to have the Charter Oak fire station at the corner of Northeast 299th Street and 112th Avenue fully staffed, as currently it is one of several stations that are not.
The station itself is in good condition, having been renovated before the Great Recession. For accidents occurring on state Route 503, it is a prime position for that road’s coverage.
“We had a grass fire that would have been a 90-second response from that station,” Nohr said as an example. Calls in the area can have several minutes response time currently as the station is not fully staffed around the clock due to a lack of funding.
The district is also looking to have its administrative building, located north of the Ridgefield Junction, staffed with full-time firefighters again. Staffing as well as replacement of aging equipment are all hoped to result from the bump in funds.
Nohr said that the recruitment process for more firefighters will start now, with the district looking to hire six or seven firefighters in early 2018, once the funding kicks in.
Nohr expressed thanks for the voters and elation for having the funding bump secured.
“It feels great. It is a great relief,” Nohr said. “This will really help us in the district to provide a consistent level of service to all areas.”
Tracy edges Smith out of La Center Council primary race
As of The Reflector’s deadline, Linda Tracy was receiving 15 percent for Position 1 on the La Center City Council and Michael Smith was receiving 11 percent. Candidate Doug Boff was leading the primary race with 73 percent, which sets up a Boff-Tracy final in November's general election.
Smith, 28, was making his first run at public office. Boff also does not have any elected experience.. Boff, however, believes his frequent city council meeting attendance over the last two years and current membership on the city’s Planning Commission gives him necessary qualifications. Linda Tracy has previously served on the city council from 2004 to 2012.
Erickson knocked out of Hockinson School District race
The Hockinson School District’s three-way race for position 5 on the School Board has been whittled to two following the results of last week’s primary election. Lorin Erickson was receiving the least percentage of votes with 24 percent as of The Reflector’s deadline. Incumbent Scott Swindell was second with 31 percent of the vote and Gordon Smith was leading the way with 45 percent.
Woodland races: Plaza, Cook, Fredericks, Heffernan move on
A former Toledo city councilor and a former Woodland detective are moving on to the November general election in a tight race for Woodland City Council Position 3 where both significantly outpaced fellow challenger Keith Bellisle. As of the second count, Dave Plaza edged out Nate Cook by only 10 votes, 240-230, with Bellisle at 100.
Plaza had previously worked for the Woodland Police Department before being fired over what he saw as retaliation for him bringing to light possible violations in the department. A lawsuit he filed against the department has since been settled, and in a previous interview he said that nobody he took issue with is still with the city.
“There’s no reason for me to even have an axe (to grind) at this point,” Plaza said previously.
Plaza’s competition in November has city council experience, as Cook had previously served on the Toledo City Council before moving into the area.
Joining those two are incumbent councilor Benjamin Fredricks and newcomer Jeremy Heffernan. Fredricks is running opposed after taking the councilor role in 2008, something he was welcoming of. He said previously, “If you have just one person running for the same seat, it’s not good.”
Fredricks placed ahead of Heffernan, whose name is not a stranger to the Woodland council dais. His wife, Jennifer, currently sits in Position 1 on the council.
Although Fredricks and Heffernan’s race was on the ballot, it wasn’t exactly competitive. Previous to the primary fellow Position 6 challenger Michael Wheaton had announced he did not intend to run as time commitments were too much.
Even without actively running, Wheaton still got votes – 78, to be exact. That wasn’t enough for him to continue, as Heffernan took 160 votes and Fredricks took 363.