The cities of Ferndale, Everson and Nooksack will officially join the fire districts that surround them, according to early results of a special election.
All six ballot measures to merge the cities with the fire districts were passing with overwhelming support Tuesday, Feb. 10.
Since the ’50s the three cities have contracted with Whatcom County fire districts: Ferndale with District 7, Nooksack and Everson with District 1. Historically city residents weren’t part of the district, even though firefighters from the district responded to 911 calls in the city.
Taxpayers in the old system pay the same price in or outside of city limits to get the same fire services. Property owners in the city, however, pay their money to the city. Then the city pays the district. Voters were asked if they wanted to cut out the middleman.
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Also, passage of the ballot measures means residents of the cities can run for fire commissioner and vote on levy increases. Fire District 1 Chief Mel Blankers said he expects a measure to lift the levy cap to go before voters in the next few years. It would be fairer, he said, if residents of Everson and Nooksack could vote on their tax rates, too.
Chief Gary Russell, of Fire District 7, said a merger would help to buffer property taxes throughout the district. If property values fall in one part of the district — like at BP Cherry Point, for example — tax rates go up for everyone; in a larger district, the ups and downs would be less extreme.
Tax rates weren’t expected to change for anyone as a result of the vote.
To pass, each city had to say they want to join the district, and the district had to say they want the city to join.
Here are the numbers, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.
City of Ferndale: 90 percent “yes” ; existing District 7: 84 percent “yes.”
City of Everson: 86 percent “yes”; District 1, on if Everson should join: 84 percent “yes.”
City of Nooksack: 91 percent “yes”; District 1, on if Nooksack should join: 84 percent “yes.”
Results will be certified Feb. 24.