Tumwater makes good on promises

Tumwater voters were evenly split a year ago about whether to approve a property tax increase proposition that would upgrade public safety resources. The vote was so close that on one day the measure was losing by 27 votes, and the next it was ahead by only nine.

The proposition eventually passed, but it was a slim margin of support.

To its credit, the City of Tumwater has carefully followed through on every promise made during last summer’s campaign that raised $1.44 million collected in 2012.

Three new firefighters were selected from among 400 applicants and are finishing their 11-week training program this month. The city’s annexation of the Black Lake Fire District in 2007 has allowed Tumwater to hire three additional firefighters next month.

Those six will enable the city to staff its north station about 35 percent of the time. To get to 100 percent staffing, it will need another six firefighters.

One new police officer is already on board and another is coming later this year, allowing the city to resume providing a school resource officer who will serve both high schools in the Tumwater district.

A new fire engine will arrive before the year’s end, and bids are going out this fall for the 5,000-square-foot expansion of the Police Department. This was one of the most urgent drivers of the proposition. Tumwater police sometimes have up to 12 people in its one holding cell. The renovation will create three cells, along with office space and a safe corridor for moving prisoners in and out of the building.

That’s great progress in one year’s time. It shows that city officials respected the difficult decision voters made last year, during a tough economic period.

Tumwater had struggled for several years over whether, or when, to put the tax proposition to voters. In July of 2009, former Mayor Ralph Osgood recommended the city put the issue on hold, because council had determined that recessionary concerns would diminish sufficient public support.

The economy did not improve between 2009 and 2011, and for many it worsened. But the city had to make a tough call because its public safety needs had grown too great.

It was a gamble. The city had never asked voters for a levy lift, and the outcome was far from certain.

Mayor Pete Kmet said at the time, “I know times are tough for folks out there, but we’re asking for $13 (more) a month for a pretty significant increase in service and to structures.”

Credit enough voters to put the proposition over the top last August, and to city officials this year for keeping the promises they made.