News

Two fire departments into one?

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

The fire departments serving Federal Way and Des Moines may be just months away from merging, ending perennial discussions of a hookup that’s closer to happening than ever before.

Elected commissioners of the departments –– actually fire districts with local taxing authority but operated separately from the cities they serve –– officially endorsed a proposed merger this month and now are working on setting an election for May or September. Voters in Des Moines Fire District 26 would ultimately decide on a merger, since that’s the one formally asking to join the Federal Way Fire Department.

But first, the commissioners will conduct public hearings and the departments will spread information to gauge citizens’ opinions on forming a single agency that would serve businesses, schools and more than 130,000 residents in an area of about 40 square miles.

Merging makes sense financially and from the standpoint of fire protection and emergency medical services, according to department officials.

Regarding money, one of the main reasons for consolidation, officials said combined departments would require fewer administrative personnel, including chiefs and other high-ranking officers. Resulting savings could be spent on other purposes.

Officials said other factors favoring a merger include:

• Federal Way Fire Department already has a contract to cover the Redondo and Woodmont areas, which were annexed by the city of Des Moines several years ago.

• Both departments have the same property levy rate--$1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

• The departments work with the same 9-1-1 dispatcher (ValleyComm) and King County Medic One paramedics.

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