At its August 6, 2012 meeting, the City Council approved sending to the voters a nine-year property tax levy lid lift proposal to fund replacement of and to purchase a new fire rescue truck, according to a press release (Ed. Note: click here to view the full text of the Bond Measure Ordinance #12-04).
Councilmembers voted 6-1 to place the measure on the ballot for the November 6, 2012 election. City Councilman Mike Cero , citing concerns that the for its purpose, and that including a fire truck in the levy lid-lift demonstrated poor fiscal discipline.
"I do believe, by and large that the fire station needs to be replaced. But that's not a blank check," said Cero. "I also campaigned for it, but it's not a blank check."
Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett disagreed, reminding the council that the station is 50 years old and says building in a "little flexibility" at the fire station in the form of a "fourth cot" or a "conference room" is prudent.
"It's just not fair to call this an extravagance," Bassett said.
Station 92, located at the south end of the Island, has been identified as being seismically unsound and unlikely to withstand a major earthquake, according to the city. The station, opened in 1962 to serve a volunteer fire department, was not originally built to house a 24/7 professional firefighter operation, and only later accommodated full-time firefighters when the station was renovated and expanded in the early 1980s. City planners say the existing fire station does not meet current operational or safety standards, and the proposed levy would fund replacement of the existing station with a modern station that meets building and safety standards and serves the operational needs of the Fire Department.
At the City Council’s direction, over 1,600 square feet were cut from the preliminary fire station design and purchase of additional fire trucks and firefighter breathing apparatus was eliminated from the proposal before the City Council voted to place the measure on the ballot. The City Council, on a vote of 5-2, has limited the size of the new fire station to less than 8,000 square feet. Councilmembers Jane Meyer Brahm and Mike Grady voted against the restriction. A proposal to hire a project manager ahead of the levy lid-lift vote at a cost of approximately $5,000 was rejected on a 3-4 vote, with Bassett, Brahm and Grady voting in favor. The council unanimously supported giving Mayor Bassett the authority to both for and against the measure for the General Election Voters' Pamphlet.
Fire Station 92 is one of two fire stations serving Mercer Island. Fire Station 92 provides all primary response to Mercer Island south of SE 44th Street. It also responds to calls on the rest of the Island in coordination with . Overall, Mercer Island firefighters respond to over 2,300 calls annually.
Also included in the levy lid lift is money to pay for a replacement for the fire station’s existing fire rescue truck, which the city says has reached the end of its useful life and is due to be replaced. Fire rescue trucks provide support and equipment to firefighters in a variety of rescue emergencies.
If approved by the voters, the new fire station is targeted to be complete in January 2015. The new rescue truck would be purchased in 2013.
The ballot measure would authorize a levy lid-lift for nine years of up to $0.086 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which would raise approximately $5.22 million for construction of the new fire station and purchase of a fire rescue truck. Based on current tax rates, the cost to a home owner would be approximately $60.20 per year for a home valued at $700,000 home (the city's current median) and $86 per year for a $955,000 home (the city's current average).
For additional information, contact Deputy City Manager Noel Treat at 206-275-7661.
(Ed. Note: This article is base on information from a City of Mercer Island press release.)