Voters approve levy, fire annexation

Published on Thu, Feb 5, 2004
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Voters approve levy, fire annexation

by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Voters approved both the Blaine school district maintenance and operations levy and the annexation of the city of Blaine into fire district 13 on Tuesday.

According to Whatcom County Auditor Shirley Forslof, about 70 percent of voters said yes to both issues. As of the last count just before 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, 1,612 people voted for the maintenance and operations levy, which will raise $3.5 million next year, rising to $4.4 million in four years. Overall, the owner of a $150,000 home will see a tax bill of $267 per year.

�We are thankful to the voters,� said Blaine schools superintendent Dr. Mary Lynne Derrington. �The approval to continue the existing levy for four more years allows us to maintain support for staffing for smaller class sizes, student activities including sports, the purchase of new reading textbooks, the improvement of libraries and much more. The important �winners� are the students who benefit from the programs and activities. We all feel very thankful to live and work in a community that strongly supports education and children.�

To date, there have been 3,316 absentee ballots issued and 1,798 received regarding the levy.

As for the fire annexation issue, both the voters of the city of Blaine and fire district 13 have to approve the measure in order for it to pass. According to Forslof, 1,616 residents voted yes as of Tuesday evening, and 580 said no. Breaking down those number, it reveals that both city of Blaine voters and those in district 13 overwhelmingly approved the annexation.

�The annexation has passed,� said fire district 13 chief Jim Rutherford. �It�s a good thing because it provides and guarantees a little more stability to provide fire protection for the city of Blaine and fire department. The alliance we currently have provides a pretty good service to both sides of the fence.�

The city of Blaine is currently receiving fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) through a five-year contract with North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services � a combination of districts 13 and 3 (Lynden) � which expires December 31, 2004. Once the new fire district boundaries are in place, it will remain that way for three years. �And then after three years citizens can by vote opt out of the arrangement,� Rutherford said.

The annexation will solidify the alliance and allow the district and city to plan for the long term, he said. District 13 is currently 53 square miles and works out of five fire stations. In addition to providing contracted fire service to Blaine, they also protect areas of Birch Bay, Custer, Haynie, and Semiahmoo.

�I just want to thank all of the voters for their support in the annexation process. This is a big step in the north end of the county and we appreciate the support and interest in the topic.�

City manager Gary Tomsic agreed, stating �This vote is a solid endorsement of the good work our firefighters perform. The vote allows us to take the next logical step. That is to become one governmental entity, which can now make long term plans for fire and EMS services.�

The citizens of Blaine, Tomsic said, now have a direct say in how these services will be delivered. �The voters in fire district 13 now have a strong tax base and citizenry to support excellent fire service for years to come. Our voters did two good things ... they supported the fire annexation and the school levy. I am very proud of our citizens in Blaine and those in Birch Bay and the other areas in the fire district 13.�

The next count will be Friday, February 6.

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