It’s “Splitsville” for Lacey and Fire District 3

February 26th, 2009 by Ken

Lacey City Manager Greg Cuoio told the Lacey City Council Thursday night that the relationship between the city and the fire district has changed from one of partnership to one of customer.  He said that the district and the city had competing interests and conflicting priorities.

And, he asked them for permission to send a letter to Fire District 3 notifying them that when the current contract expires on December 31, 2011, the City of Lacey will not renew it.

The Council unanimously approved the action to notify the district of the city’s intentions.

For more than 40 years, the City of Lacey has contracted with Fire District 3 for fire services.  Over those four decades, the city and the district have often disagreed, but more often agreed.  This action is the first time either partner has voiced intention of opting out of the agreement.

Cuoio said that the fire district had moved in a new direction from a combination department to a more traditional model of service delivery.  He explained that a combination department was community focused, while the traditional model was less adaptive, less flexible and more costly.

He said that city services are negatively impacted when voters in the fire district  reject or approve  levy lid lifts as they did in 2002 and again in 2008.

Cuoio said that when voters approve a levy lid lift the district argues that Lacey isn’t paying its fair share and needs to increase its contract payment.  But when voters in the district turn down a levy lid lift, Cuoio said the city is asked to pay more to maintain current services.   “It’s an untenable situation for the city,” he said.

“There comes a time in a relationship when it just doesn’t work anymore,” Cuoio said.  “I believe we are at that point.”

The city manager told the council that creating a city-run emergency medical and fire services department will be challenging and will take time.  “That’s why I’m recommending this evening that the city council authorize correspondence to District 3 advising that the city will not be renewing its service agreement at the end of this contract period.”

He also issued a warning to the city councilmembers that forming their own department will be difficult.  “We will be criticized and challenged,” he said.   “There will be those that contend that Lacey cannot possibly provide a more cost effective service.  We can and we will,” he said.

Posted in Government, History, Local Politics, The Real News

(comments are closed).