House fire in North Highline, 1 hurt

May 5th, 2017 Tracy Posted in fire, North Highline Fire District, Shorewood, White Center news 1 Comment »

(Adapted from original as-it-happened coverage on partner site West Seattle Blog – smoke was visible for miles around)

Thanks to Colby for that photo, the first we received from a house fire this afternoon near 26th SW and SW 109th.

The smoke had subsided by the time our crew arrived at the fire scene – thanks to those who tipped us via text and voice on our hotline (206-293-6302). This is in the North Highline Fire District’s jurisdiction; other departments including Seattle Fire sent units as mutual aid (including Engine 11):

Big response overall.

One person suffered minor injuries, we’re told, and was treated at the scene. By 3:45 pm, the fire (at 10907 26th SW) was out or close to it, our crew reported, and investigators were on the way to try to find out how it started.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: North Highline Fire District’s funding fight in Olympia; homelessness updates

February 3rd, 2017 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

While the announcement of last night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting highlighted a briefing from North Highline’s fire chief, an unannounced speaker – a former NHUAC board member who is now an encampment resident – was also a highlight. Here’s how the meeting unfolded:

NORTH HIGHLINE FIRE DISTRICT: Mike Marrs, chief for 4 years in addition to being chief of Burien Fire District 2, was there primarily to explain how legislation in Olympia could be a threat to some of the money the district needs to operate – funding it secured just two years ago, with a voter-approved measure, via the “benefit charge.”

First, Marrs detailed the district’s many-faceted 75-year history, changed along the way by various annexations, districts, and alliances.

The history included how the Fire District gets funding – primarily through property taxes – and that meant a big drop during the recession almost a decade ago: “20, 30 percent.” NHFD “made some hard choices” and that included the leadership consolidation. District 2 pays NHFD to serve North Burien; NHFD pays District 2 for Marrs to be its chief as well as theirs.

“It was supposed to be a Band-Aid,” he recalled, “probably a short-term fix, get us through the economic difficulties,” and annexation by either Burien or Seattle seemed likely to happen relatively quickly. But then came the 2012 vote in North Highline “Area Y” rejecting Burien, and the “Band-Aid” has had to stay on.

In property taxes, “we levy up to $1.50 for $1,000 assessed value” for fire/EMS services, Marrs said, but “that number wasn’t enough to continue to field (the staffing they had).” That led to the Fire Benefit Charge, “instead of levying $1.50 per $1,000, you reduce your tax to $1.00, and then there’s a formula for (that charge).” It’s not a fee for service, but a charge for everyone to pay to benefit from having the service available.

The formula involves how much water would have to be put on what’s on your property if there was a fully involved fire. (More than 5,500 parcels are in the area.) The vote authorizing it was in 2014; it was applied in 2015; it has to be re-authorized by voters in 2020.

“The one thing that really resonated with the commissioners was that by using the Fire Benefit Charge, low-income, tax-exempt housing would have to pay it too. …The amount of (that) in the NHFD is dramatically higher than other places in the county. You have a lot of parcels that never paid any property taxes – the sole funding for the fire district – (including) multifamily properties that … get a high benefit from (the service). … The board felt over the years that there was a real inequity (in the 3 1/2-square-mile district)” before the charge was implemented.

100 percent of the district’s revenue used to be from property taxes; now it’s 80 percent taxes, 20 percent benefit charge. Some of the tax-exempt-property owners, though, he said, feel they shouldn’t have to pay, “because all of their money should go into … housing.”

For the past two years in Olympia, Marrs continued, there’s been legislation related to this, after fire departments elsewhere formed big regional “fire authorities” and implemented benefit charges.

The benefit charge required a 60 percent supermajority of voters to pass, but will only require a 50 percent approval for reauthorization. The regional authorities, however, need a 60 percent to reauthorize, and have been seeking to have that reduced to a simple majority.

And that’s where the trouble erupted. The entities that don’t want to pay the benefit charges, Marrs explained, have jumped onto the legislation, seeking exemptions from those charges in all sizes of fire districts/authorities. Marrs said he had been to Olympia to testify this past Tuesday. He tried to explain that larger districts have more property owners and so if they have to pick up the slack, it’s not as much of a hardship. $208,000 is the median price here; $260,000 is the median in Kent; $670,000 in Woodinville, he noted. Other areas also have bigger commercial bases to draw on, for funding.

Without the charge, Marrs stressed, there’s a real inequity in terms of properties being supported by so many others. They are currently opposing the bill, and seeking to have the proposed benefit-charge exemption removed. “We’re only asking them to contribute to the 20 percent of the budget,” not the rest of it, he reiterated. But, he said, “I think we have an uphill battle.”

Asked if the new mixed-use development on the former supermarket site in Top Hat will be tax-exempt, Marrs said he believes it will be. (We’ll follow up on that.) NHUAC vice president Barbara Dobkin pointed out that North Highline has double the poverty rate of King County in general – 25 percent, compared to 11 percent.

“How underfunded would we be without that money?” asked NHUAC board member Roslyn Hyde.

The charge could be raised and spread among the remaining taxpayers, Marrs said. “We know what King County Housing pays us … it’s all the others, we don’t know whether they would qualify,” such as the Coronado Springs apartment building, which “is a huge contributor now.” KCHA pays about $50,000 a year via the benefit charge, so for just that example, NHFD could just “go without” that money,” or raise what it charges among the remaining payers.

The benefit charge, he clarified, is a “more equitable way to generate money for the fire department” because, for example, a 2,000-square-foot house takes the same amount of firefighting whether it’s a highly valued view property or something of much less value. (In case you’re wondering, Marrs didn’t have the exact amount that a 2,000-sf house is charged, but said it was in the $150 vicinity.)

North Highline and Burien District 2 are somewhat isolated, he explained in answering another question – they don’t have a lot of mutual-aid resources (they’re still trying to improve how that works with Seattle, for example, he said).

So what can be done? asked NHUAC board member Rich Leibfried.

“We might ask people to write their representatives,” Marrs said. NHUAC president Liz Giba expressed frustration that the housing operators have been working on this for a long time but didn’t even see fit to bring it up with district/community leaders.

The House bill is HB 1467; the Senate bill is SB 5364. (Looking at the HB 1467 page on the Legislature’s website, we note that local State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon is a sponsor.)

If communicating with legislators, you would ask them “to remove the low-income-housing exemptions from the bills.” (The main part of the bill – getting the fire authorities’ reauthorization level to 50 percent – is not something NHFD is opposing.)

Asked about NHFD’s budget this year, Chief Marrs said it includes about $1.2 million from the benefit charge, $2.2 million from the Burien contract, and ~$2 million from property taxes. They’re “behind on engine replacement”; their budget also goes to thermal-imaging cameras, backup “bunker gear” to better =protect firefighters from the high risk of cancer; body armor when they’re dealing with scenes where they’re treating victims of violence; washer-dryer equipment that has to be dedicated to separate uses (fires and violence scenes). Their calls are split roughly 80 percent medical calls, 20 percent fires and other emergencies.

SIDE NOTE: Marrs also mentioned the cardiac-survival rate of Medic One, once “best in the world” at 27 percent, with a leader who took the rate above 60 percent within about a decade. Factors include the highest citizen-CPR training, cardiac defibrillation by responders, and excellent care at local medical centers. “Your chances of walking out of the hospital alive after suffering a cardiac event in Seattle-King County is off the charts.”

(P.S. At the start of the Fire District discussion, NHUAC president Giba reminded all first that she also is a member of the NHFD Board.)

HOMELESSNESS-RELATED TOPICS: These were all discussed in the final segment of the meeting.

First, NHUAC board member Hyde recapped last week’s meeting at which the new plan for the White Center shelter was officially announced (WCN coverage here), with Mary’s Place planning to open a family shelter, starting with about 30 people, at 8th/108th, likely on or by March 1st. She said a “wish list” of needed items would be forthcoming once there’s somewhere to store such items. Pack ‘n’ Plays and twin bedsheets are among the most-needed items, she noted. You can also apply to volunteer, via a link on the Mary’s Place website. And she reminded all of the February 11th work party.

Second, Camp Second Chance – Dobkin said she was at last night’s City of Seattle-operated meeting about what has been an unauthorized encampment since last summer on Myers Way (WCN coverage here) and is about to be made by the City of Seattle into an authorized encampment. Among other things, she said it was disappointing that no one from King County had been invited to the meeting. Leibfried noted that most of the concerns voiced were about campers outside CSC.

Then a camp resident – former NHUAC board member Patrick Mosley, who served on the board 2010-2012 – came up to the podium.

Mosley said he became homeless after losing his spouse and his home. He had been living in his truck – until an exhaust leak. He first went to a shelter in Fremont and discovered some things about it that didn’t work …including issues with a longtime encampment operator (SHARE). Then he went back to California for a while, and, when returning here to visit his children, he learned about the splinter group that had formed Camp Second Chance.

Mosley talked about the camp’s self-sufficiency and quest for 501(c)(3) status, and an eventual plan to have it become a business. “SHARE isn’t necessarily happy that this encampment is there” because of it being sanctioned, he said. He said he’s been at the camp for about three months, and that it’s a “model camp – the first time that people in this situation have a chance to make a difference … in this situation.”

He talked about a friend who committed a crime “during a few minutes of a bad mistake” who will likely never be able to get a job again. He said the camp works to help people get and stay sober, is working to help people learn skills such as gardening, is working to set up a system to get people

“It may not affect you now but it might in the future … so it’s best to set up a relationship before you (possibly) need it.”

Giba asked him what he feels about the people living outside the camp. “What do they mean to you, living there?” He said he has spoken to many of them whom he sees daily. “It’s a similar situation but different.” One man for example has mental issues. He explained that everyone at the camp has to chip in $20/month to help pay for things such as propane. Substance abusers, for example, aren’t interested in doing that. “There are a lot of drug, and drug issues, over there … but there are everywhere.” He also noted that not all the trash you see in the area was left “by the homeless people” – some is dumped by people from elsewhere. He said there are a variety of difficult circumstances, such as people going through the “revolving door” of prison/jail, and

An attendee asked about people being required to take housing if it’s offered/available. “Part of the contract with the city is that if they offer it, we can’t refuse it.”

He said would-be campers soon will have to pass a background check to see if they are a sex offender, to sign that they understand the camp’s rules, that they attend the Monday meetings.

Polly Trout from Patacara Community Services, announced last night as the camp’s operator, said that the camp will continue to be self-governing, but that her organization “We’re enrolling everyone in the new King County Coordinated Entry …but the reality is that there’s not enough housing for everyone.” She said people are prioritized, such as severely disabled people, youth, and families. About half the CSC residents are working, he said, but don’t fit into those prioritized categories. “There are some people on disability who are on waitlists,” for example, or awaiting disability-payment eligibility.

Trout said they’d been asked how people can help the camp and its residents. “If you need a handyperson or someone to mow your lawn, you might think about coming to the camp.” She said she would not recommend someone unless she could recommend them wholeheartedly. She mentioned a couple who had lived in the camp for a while and have just moved into a rental room at a house of a friend of Trout’s.

She was asked for a little more background on herself; she’s been working with Seattle-area homeless people for 15 years, 12 of those with youth in the U-District via Seattle Education Access. She formed Patacara with an interest in something more intergenerational.

From the audience, attendee Ben Calot contended that “there are jobs out there for everyone”; he was an employer and had an employee “who smoked crack in the bathroom every day on shift.”

10 percent of CSC’s residents have been moving into housing every month, Trout said. Mosley said it has 15 residents right now, and that they’re likely to grow to 70. And the camp will be voting on potential use of “tiny houses,” as a result of what city reps said at last night’s meeting. They will consider building tiny houses themselves; other encampments generally have tiny houses built by donors. “The city has authorized us to have 50 tents and/or tiny houses,” Trout added.

What happens after two years? she was asked. They will have to find somewhere to move to, she said.

Next speaker, area resident Pat Lemoine – who said at the previous night’s meeting, and reiterated at this one, that he has a “plan to get Camp Second Chance housed.” He said he’d dealt with unemployment in the 2008 recession and came up with a plan to live on $24,000/year. “I started looking at the $50m that the city of Seattle is paying to deal with the homeless. I could live 2,083 years on that!” He noted that 4,500 people had been counted as homeless. Many have “some form of income” – a job, Social Security, etc. – and he noted that he would be eligible for $1,000/month if he retires at 62, “a $12,000 income a year, which is half the ($24,000) sum.” 4,166 people could live on the money the city is spending, he said, pointing to the written plan he had distributed last night and again tonight. He noted that one complaint is that there’s not enough affordable housing out there, but, he said, researching online, he found about 800 apartments for $1200 or less. “My plan here is more for the people who have their stuff together” – not necessarily those dealing with drugs or mental issues – “if we could get even 10 percent of (homeless people) housed …that makes it a smaller problem.” So, he believes, just a fraction of the $50 million could help. $600,000 could house everybody in Camp Second Chance right now, for example, he said, acknowledging that leases might be a challenge, “but with the power of the city … lawyers could get involved if necessary … I don’t see it as that big of a deal to get the easiest (people) housed right now.”

NHUAC president Giba said the plan of housing people instead of having them live in tents “makes sense to me.”

Attendee Calot said that it’s clear to him that Seattle is wasting its money on encampments, “making things worse,” even though it has an expert report it paid for that says Housing First is the way to go, not encampments.

“So,” asked Patrick Mosley from the audience, “what do you do in the meantime?”

The city is wasting its money on short-term goals but should be working on long-term goals rather than dedicating all its resources and energy on the former. “If we don’t focus on long-term results, we’re not going to get long-term results.” He said they want to see the “drug encampments” on Myers Way cleaned up rather than the city “allowing criminality to run rampant.”

Another area resident said that those other campers, including those in RVs, are giving a bad name to everyone around them, including CSC.

Lemoine summarized that while the county and city have declared “a state of emergency” regarding homelessness, he doesn’t see anything getting done, compared to past emergencies in wartime and other times. He wondered aloud how much of the money has gone to things aside from housing and direct solutions – how much to “writing reports,” for example.

Trout said that she appreciates some of Lemoine’s ideas, and noted that she has never before had a government contract, and “is learning a lot….I have to say that if you want a quick and frugal solution, DON’T go to the government.” That evoked laughter around the room. “We’re going to need smaller, private solutions (too),” she added.

Final related topic – Leibfried had participated in the One Night Count of people living unsheltered around King County, and Giba asked him for some thoughts. He said he had hoped to volunteer in this area but was sent to a different part of the city, with “someone who was not very well-trained,” but it was “kind of a fun experience.” He mentioned the change in methodology for this year, “gridd(ing) out the entire city,” not just looking where organizers thought people would be living outdoors. He was sent to the Burke-Gilman Trail in Wedgwood and did find a group in an RV. “It was a bit of a media circus.” Mosley asked him how accurate he thought the count would turn out. “More accurate than not doing it at all,” Leibfried said.

From the audience, a man who said he moved here a year ago from Chicago said it was disorganized there too.

TRIBUTE TO CASS TURNBULL: Vice president Dobkin offered a tribute to Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty and TreePAC, who died suddenly earlier this week. “It’s a huge loss … she had a vision for Myers Way … (to) save that property … otherwise it would all be paved over.”

JUBILEE DAYS: Saturday, April 1st, announced secretary Pat Price, there’ll be a prime-rib dinner/auction event, including “nominating a mayor of White Center,” to raise money for this year’s Jubilee Days – “save the date.”

WESTSIDE BABY’S COMMUNITEA: Price also announced the March 12th benefit tea at the Sea-Tac Hilton for White Center-headquartered WestSide Baby.

WHITE CENTER SUMMIT: Board members were asked about last weekend’s event. Several of them were there. Leibfried said that it seemed to him that more networking was in order. Three ideas emerged, according to an attendee from WCCDA: A youth council, a safety group, and a health initiative, particularly support for the coalition working ond drug abuse. “Is that posted somewhere?” he was asked. Reply: “Not yet … it will be.” Another item on the wish list, Hyde said – “a big community calendar.”

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets first Thursdays most months, 7 pm, at North Highline Fire District headquarters. Watch northhighlineuac.org for updates between meetings. And if you have ideas for upcoming meetings, board members say, let them know – you can find contact info on the aforementioned website.

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THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council spotlights NH Fire District

January 29th, 2017 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on THURSDAY: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council spotlights NH Fire District

7 pm Thursday, you’re invited to this month’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting. From president Liz Giba:

Please join North Highline’s volunteer community council at our February 2, 2017 meeting.

The Opportunity to Be Informed, Be Involved and Be Heard!

Our past influences our present as well as our future. In 2014, our fire district, the North Highline Fire District, asked and we answered. We approved a fire benefit charge aimed at equitably spreading the cost of fire protection and emergency medical services. Join NHUAC in welcoming Fire Chief Mike Marrs to NHUAC. Chief Marrs will discuss where our fire district has been, where NHFD is today, and the road to staying on track to reestablish a healthy, stable fire district.

Good of the Order will provide community members time to discuss what’s on their minds. Do you have something of community importance to share ? Join us and share!

See you Thursday, February 2nd at 7 PM – Bring a Neighbor!

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TONIGHT: North Highline Fire District public hearing

October 17th, 2016 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on TONIGHT: North Highline Fire District public hearing

From the North Highline Fire District, a public hearing happening tonight (Monday, October 17th):

NORTH HIGHLINE FIRE DISTRICT
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the North Highline Fire District Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing to:

Review revenue sources for the District’s 2017 expense budget including property taxes and possible increases in property tax revenues per RCW 84.55.120, and

Review and establish the Fire District’s benefit charge to be imposed in 2017, per RCW 52.18.060(2).

Fire Station 18
1243 SW 112th Street
Seattle, WA 98146
October 17, 2016 at 7 pm

The benefit charge is explained on the NHFD website.

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How would Seattle annexation affect the North Highline Fire District?

May 18th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 5 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

While it’s still a year and a half until the earliest date that residents of unincorporated North Highline would vote on Seattle annexation, a deadline is near:

The North Highline Fire District Board of Commissioners has two weeks to write up its position on the proposed annexation for the King County Boundary Review Board, whose public hearing starts two weeks after that.

But first, the board wants to make sure it has all the information it needs to take a stand. Some of it came during an extensive Q&A during the board’s Monday night meeting, with Seattle city and King County reps in attendance, but the board also is awaiting written answers to some key questions. By meeting’s end, the Seattle reps promised to speed it up, though NHFD lawyer Brian Snure observed that it would have been better if this information had all been in months earlier.

No way to go back in time. So here’s what did happen Monday night.

Guests for the discussion, which took up most of the public portion of the meeting (which ended with a closed-door session), were Seattle’s longtime annexation point person Kenny Pittman, Seattle Fire Department Assistant Chief of Operations Jay Hagen, and Karen Freeman from the King County Executive’s Office.

Existing Seattle Fire stations are well positioned to cover the NH area, Chief Hagen said, meeting the 4-minute response standard. “We try to get a fire engine to the emergency alarm location within 4 minutes, 90 percent of the time.” So if NH Engine 18 is busy, what does that do to response times? It would go up to 5 minutes, 10 seconds, but that’s still better than the service SE Seattle gets, he said. “In all four corners of the city, the coverage would be better here than other areas of Seattle.”

Commissioner Liz Giba asked what response time meant. “First we have to process the call – CPT is time from when the phone rings at public-safety answering point, they process the call, look for a geocoded address on the map, match to computer on fire apparatus, and send alarm to the station. When bell rings at station, we end answering time and start turnout time – until the wheels roll over threshold of station door. Then we have response time, the actual driving time to the incident. … We would ask them to gear up quicker for an aid (medical) response than for a structure fire response – an extra 20 seconds or so, about 80 seconds.”

That’s engine response, he explained. For ladder-truck response – West Seattle has only one, Ladder 11 at Station 32 in The Junction. But that’s about equidistant for what NH would get right now. “In a perfect world we’d like to rearrange things and have a ladder truck closer. … Those are the longer apparatus and the (ones) we use in Seattle are tillered, with asteering wheel on the back set of wheels … they do search and rescue, forcible entry, ventilation … they’re dedicated to certain functions on the fire ground. In Seattle we have about a 3 to 1 ratio, engines to ladders. If annexation occurs, the engine here would be the 34th engine in Seattle, and we have 11 ladder trucks spread around the city.”

SFD has a 4-platoon system, 4 groups of firefighters who relieve each other sequentially, while NH has a three-platoon system. sends two battalion chiefs to structure fires for command and control – “they’re the ones you might see with radios giving orders, or they might join firefighters inside the structure.” Then there’s Deputy 1 who has command over the entire city. All companies are staffed with four personnel at all times.

Medic unit coverage: Seattle has BLS (basic life support) – the EMT level of care, closest to the alarm location and they can get there and decide whether ALS (advanced life support) is needed or can they handle it on their own? “They pave the way to success by doing things (to prepare for) the ALS unit.” All Seattle firefighters are EMTs. The paramedics in King County, meantime, “all come from the same school … all highly regarded.” Last year, he said, they had a 62.5% cardiac-arrest survival rate. They get international visitors – one from the UK, for example, said that where he was from, they had a 12 percent survival rate. SFD is the “rolling classroom for Medic One.” He says they already provide a good level of service for ALS. But – Medic 4, he noted, is moving to downtown Burien this summer, close to NH. Seattle’s Medic 32 is at Station 37 (West Seattle’s southernmost station) during the rebuild of Station 32. “The honest truth is, when we go back to our normal condition, the medic unit is not as close as the (one) that serves this area – we’d have to do some work to make that an improvement.” They don’t have plans “developed” yet.

In response to Giba’s question, Hagen noted that the new Station 32 in the West Seattle Junction will be finished in about a year. He also noted that this area is “rich in need” – 1,000 ALS alarm in the past year. If you carved the same acreage from, say, West Seattle’s Admiral District, he said, that only generated 209 alarms in the past year.

Hagen said he thinks “there’s a great company here … at face value, not a lot would change. What’s notable to me is the depth and breadth of services that the city of Seattle could bring to bear … larger organization, more follow-on services, I think that would be noteworthy.” Comissioner Julie Hiatt asked about follow-on examples. “Technical rescue services, like trench rescue,” Hagen began. (A unit is positioned in SODO, 4th and Horton.)

North Highline (and Burien) Chief Mike Marrs said those services are provided through Zone 3 responses, any station out of King County. It would come out of on-duty firefighters as opposed to specialty crew members who are always on.

What if the specialists are busy? Giba asked. If it’s going to be more than 2 hours before they are, they have callbacks to bring personnel in. “Every Seattle firefighter is trained to the awareness of (assessing) operational level,” he said, how to call for additional resources, for example. They also could call for mutual aid if need be, Hagen said – Seattle is zone 5, South/West suburbs are zone 3.

Hiatt asked for an example. So Hagen spelled out a trench-rescue scenario, a “low priority, high impact, high risk type of emergency” that might happen every six weeks or so. If one is already in progress and a second one is called, the first-arriving firefighters know what to do – to stabilize the situation, waiting for more advanced resources to arrive. “Chances are we might do more than one of those things at once, reinstate our backup team AND call for mutual aid.”

Pittman then spoke. He said the average tax bill would go down in NH if annexed. Seattle “really does have a low tax rate because we have a huge assessed value and state law limits how much (they can charge). … Residents in this area are affected by special-purpose districts, and NHFD is a special-purpose district. If annexed … the only thing that would exist for Highline is if they passed a bond that would stay with property owners until paid off.”

“How about financing for the fire services?” Pittman’s reply: The city budgets overall for everything.

He mentioned the state sales tax that would be partly funneled to Seattle – $7.75 million a year for a 6-year period, while the previous version was $5 million for 10 years – without costing anyone anything more.

His spreadsheet showed that annual taxes on an average NH property would go down about $200 a year – dropping from $3,239 to $3,011.

Asked about the recently passed Move Seattle transportation levy, Pittman replied incorrectly that it wasn’t a property tax – but it is (“The $930 million levy will be paid for through a property tax that will cost the median Seattle household (valued at $450,000) about $275 per year, for nine years.”)

He was asked about school districts. This area would remain in the Highline Public Schools system unless something happened to change that in the future. The school districts would have to go to the Educational Service District to ake a change – “there are no plans to do that, and no discussions to my knowledge (about that).”

Back to fire-related matters. He mentioned that firefighters would retain their seniority and benefits – “the two unions would have some discussion among themselves” about who goes where,” and the Fire Departments also would have some details to work out, if there were any layoffs. But again, they’d need more firefighters than they have now. What about administrative staff? “We’re looking into that,” said Pittman.

What about rank? asked Giba. Pittman said that people would be evaluated on an individual basis to see if they met the qualifications for the Seattle version of the title they hold in NH. Hagen elaborated, “I called the president of Local 27 this morning, Kenny Stewart, to say we’d be having some of these discussions – he’s in pretty close communication with NH leadership, some of this stuff hasn’t been worked out yet.” They’d look at resumes, training, etc. Hiatt wondered if there are set criteria for evaluation. Local 27 VP Jeff Miller was in the room and said “That all gets worked out in union negotiations … as a union we wouldn’t be doing any evaluating but we’d be advocating for people to keep their seniority,” etc.

“It’s a pretty well-documented body of knowledge,” Hagen added.

Hiatt asked him for elaboration on administrative staff.

“They’re not necessarily at the fire stations – we have them at the training facility, Harborview, headquarters – I’m going to guess we have in the 50s, admin employees who are in Local 17.” Hagen said he couldn’t commit to what the situation would be under annexation – there’s one administrative staffer at the NHFD HQ – “I think we’d find a place for that person to go.”

What changes would people see in this building?

Pittman didn’t think many, but acknowledged that the building is used a lot for community meetings, so that would be worked out. The vehicles would be the biggest change.

No plans for station relocation? asked commissioner Dominic Barrera.

“Not at this time,” said Pittman. If there was a need to relocate the building, he added, it would probably be a little further north and east, “but there are no plans for that, let me be real clear.”

The real question, he said, is whether the plans would continue for a station in the potentially to-be-annexed area, “and there are no plans to have no station here” – he pointed out that this station would help service parts of West Seattle too.

“Is there any way you can give us an assurance there will always be a station in area Y?” asked Hiatt.

“An iron-clad guarantee? … It wouldn’t make sense to not have one in this area,” said Hagen.

“But it doesn’t make sense to not have one in Arbor Heights,” Hiatt pressed (an area annexed to Seattle in xxx). “… We wouldn’t want to be Arbor Heights.”

What about mutual-aid agreements if north Burien suddenly was without the NH fire station? Seattle already has several, said Hagen.

Do you feel a responsibility to north Burien? pressed Hiatt, saying it would leave “a hole.”

The Boundary Review Board would look at “doing no harm,” replied Pittman. He also said he had been “having conversations with Chief (Mike) Marrs … we take it very seriously.”

Hagen mentioned Seattle’s remodeling of fire stations – 30 of 33 done – “we would be making (upgrades) to this station,” including a decontamination area. “We’ve made a commitment to storing our protetive ensemble in a cimte-clintrolled system … with airflow through … the gear degrades a lot more quickly if we don’t take care of it. So we’ve made a commitment to appropriate gear storage facilities.” He said they also are committed to seat belts, strapping things down in cabs, cancer and heart attack. They also have put a functional gym system in every fire station, for health and wellness. They have facilities to capture the “diesel soot” as engines come in and out. “And on sleeping arrangements, we have gone to 1 person per room.”

Mutual aid is not automatic right now for Seattle, Hagen acknowledged, but it could be.

That surfaced concerns about North Burien losing coverage if the remaining portion of North Highline became part of Seattle. So – How would Burien get pre-approved for (automatic) Seattle mutual aid? Hagen said the county’s 50 fire chiefs meet regularly, and Seattle’s new Chief Harold Scoggins “is very comfortable operating in that environment … I see it as a trend we’re moving toward in this county.”

“Wouldn’t being the closest to Arbor Heights put an additional strain on this station?” asked Barbara Dobkin of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.

Hagen pointed out that “if we remove the political boundary,” then Engine 26 (South Park) and Engine 11 (Highland Park) would take part of what’s currently the North Highline area, so this station wouldn’t necessarily be serving everything it does AND more.

Pittman then picked up the timeline. The Boundary Review Board takes this up in June. Either a November 2017 or November 2018 election could follow. The former would result in annexation taking effect in January 2019, after a “full-blown budget process with the City Council.” Or, if a 2018 vote, then it would take effect in January 2020. “So there’s time to work out these issues.”

“So shouldn’t people have answers to these questions before they vote?” asked Giba.

Yes, and that’s what they’re working on now, said Hagen and Pittman. Two to three weeks away.

“We have to take a position and develop a brief on annexation and whether we support it by May 27th,” before the Boundary Review Board meeting, said the NHFD board’s lawyer. Without all the answers, it would be difficult for them to support it. So, the lawyer said, why do you have to have a Boundary Review Board hearing this soon for a November 2017 annexation vote?

Because they already asked for a one-year extension,and the main issue – the tax credit – has been addressed, Pittman said.

Anything you’d like to add? Giba asked Freeman.

No, she replied, but she’d answer questions.

First question – is King County financially assisting any government over these annexed areas? No, she said. Part of why we’re supporting annexations is because we (are low on money).

What about finding North Burien a place to build a fire station? Freeman recapped some past discussions including “an agreement that sunsetted in 2012” – the year by which the county had envisioned all the annexations would be complete. “We’re well past that date and we’re not done.” Three “islands” are claimed by Renton, there’s one outside Federal Way, there’s this one, and “63 smaller islands” elsewhere in the county.

“So you’re not going to find a parcel for North Burien (fire station) if the annexation goes through?” Hiatt asked.

“That’s correct,” said Freeman.

What would happen to the community if annexation was voted in, before it took effect? Dobkin asked.

We’d continue to serve it as best we can, said Freeman, adding that the county is looking at a “significant budget shortfall” in the next biennium. And “service continues to degrade.”

Pittman pointed out that it would only be a year between the vote and annexation taking effect.

Hiatt wondered if medic mutual aid could be available out of Burien, expressing concern that there’s just one unit in WS and it’s a ways away. “There’s a couple options” said Hagen – “one would be to make an arrangement with Medic 4 to provide that service in this area, the existing medic unit in West Seattle could be relocated further south …” Currently, they don’t call for mutual aid until everyone’s tied up, but that could change, Hagen said. “…I can tell you your concern is heard.” But, “There’s really no good reason we don’t have automatic aid right now … we can give easier than we can get … most of the time.”

Pat Price from NHUAC asked about timetable for the Duwamish annexation and how that’s affecting NHFD. “We’re still working through the interlocal agreement with King County … still looking at (possibly) putting it on November ballot this year, and it would take effect in 2018.”

Chief Hagen committed to getting answers to the e-mailed questions as soon as possible – even if partial, Hiatt stressed and he agreed to that.

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SEATTLE ANNEXATION? Next discussion: North Highline Fire District Board on May 16th

May 6th, 2016 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on SEATTLE ANNEXATION? Next discussion: North Highline Fire District Board on May 16th

Quick followup to the announcement at last night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting (WCN coverage here) that the King County Boundary Review Board has scheduled its public hearing on possible Seattle annexation:

As mentioned in our story, the BRB public hearings are set for 7 pm June 13-14 at the Technology Access Foundation’s Bethaday Community Space.

We followed up this morning with Seattle city government’s point person on the proposed annexation, Kenny Pittman. He said the city is still waiting for its formal notification of what’s on the BRB website, so it hasn’t made an official announcement of the hearings yet. He also said the city has yet to set up the webpage it promised at the March Dubsea Coffee community meeting, with information about the proposal and process. We asked if any further community conversations are scheduled; not yet, he said, but he did mention that he will be at the North Highline Fire District board’s meeting on May 16th (7 pm, NHFD HQ, 1243 SW 112th) at the board’s invitation, and will be bringing along a Seattle Fire assistant chief.

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Small house fire in White Center, no one hurt

November 9th, 2015 Tracy Posted in fire, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on Small house fire in White Center, no one hurt

(WCN photo by Patrick Sand)
North Highline firefighters are just wrapping up their work at a house in the 10800 block of 11th SW, where a small fire started in a wall and extended to the ceiling before it was put out. They tell us damage is not major and the home’s residents will be able to go back inside soon. Nobody was hurt. The fire’s cause has not yet been determined.

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VIDEO: King County Sheriff’s Office, North Highline Fire District, AMR ambulance, other safety specialists visit White Center Heights Elementary

April 29th, 2015 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline Fire District, Schools, White Center news 1 Comment »

(UPDATED EARLY THURSDAY with more video, photos)

The youngest students at White Center Heights Elementary School got a lesson today that will last their whole lives: Finding out firsthand about public-safety personnel and what they do, during the school’s second annual Emergency Services Day. In our video, above, the star of the show was the King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Guardian One, which landed right on the school’s playfield after circling a few times. Once it had come to a full stop, the students got to go over for a close-up look:

But the helicopter was not the only visitor. Public-safety vehicles including a North Highline Fire District engine and crew rolled onto the WC Heights playground for show and tell:

Ever wonder how a fire engine works and what equipment’s on board? Listen to the explanation and Q/A for this group of students:

An AMR ambulance was there too, with an EMT who has a special connection to the school – David Sonsteng is WC Heights Elementary’s PTSA president:

And a KCSO Gang Unit detective showed the students a patrol car as well as explaining his gear, from weapons to radio:

The students included WC Heights kindergarteners who had been working on their “community helpers” module, and preschool and Head Start students who were finishing up a “transportation” module. Introducing young children to emergency personnel in a non-emergency situation is helpful in case of a future emergency – firefighters, police and others might look scary with their uniforms and equipment unless a child recalls having learned about who they are and what they do. So all these little ones went home today with stories to tell:

(Here’s our coverage of the first WCH Emergency Services Day last year.)
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EARLIER: Below, the short version of our story, originally published Wednesday afternoon:

During a burst of sunshine between showers, White Center Heights Elementary students greeted special visitors for the school’s 2nd annual Emergency Services DayKing County Sheriff’s Office (including the Guardian One helicopter and a Gang Unit detective), North Highline Fire District, AMR (ambulance), and more. Above, a quick bit of video from right after Guardian One’s landing on the school playfield – we have much more to add later this evening.

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North Highline Fire District meeting Monday: ‘Benefit charge’ hearing, too

October 17th, 2014 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Fire District meeting Monday: ‘Benefit charge’ hearing, too

North Highline Fire District invites you to its commissioners’ meeting next Monday (October 20th), 7 pm at NHFD headquarters, because it’s a double-duty meeting – it’s also a public hearing related to the “benefit charge” approved by voters earlier this year, along with a chance to find out more about the district’s revenue expectation for next year. You can see the full agenda here.

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Scenes from Night Out 2014 in North Highline

August 6th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Crime, King County Sheriff's Office, Neighborhoods, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on Scenes from Night Out 2014 in North Highline

Thanks to North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin for sharing photos from a lively Night Out gathering in NH – our apologies for delayed publication. Above, NH Fire District firefighters stopped by. Below, King County Sheriff’s Office was represented too – that’s Major Jerrell Wills in uniform:

And he wasn’t alone:

Next year, let us know if you are having a Night Out party – we would love to stop by a few, as we do on the other side of the city-county line – whitecenternow@gmail.com any time!

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Election 2014: North Highline Fire District ‘benefit charge’ passing

August 5th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Election, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 1 Comment »

It needs 60 percent approval – and so far, after the first ballot count in tonight’s election, the North Highline Fire District benefit charge has almost 70 percent approval. Here’s the full list of election results from around King County; next ballot count will be out tomorrow afternoon.

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North Highline ballot measure: Hearing next Monday; ballots on the way

July 16th, 2014 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news 3 Comments »

King County Elections is sending out ballots for the August 5th election starting today, and if you live in the North Highline Fire District, you will be asked to vote on Proposition 1, the “benefit charge” measure. The district is having a public hearing next Monday, July 21st, during its regular meeting (7 pm, NHFD HQ, 1243 SW 112th). Here’s the fact sheet it’s circulating:

P.S. If you want to return your ballot without having to pay postage, the drop-off van will be back in Greenbridge August 2nd, 4th, 5th – details here.

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34th District Democrats endorse North Highline Fire District measure

July 10th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Election, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 5 Comments »

Less than a week until King County Elections sends out the August 5th ballots, which will include the North Highline Fire District benefit-charge ballot measure. Last night, meeting in West Seattle, this area’s biggest political organization, the 34th District Democrats, endorsed the measure. If you’re still getting up to speed on what it’s about, see the video in this WCN story from last month’s NH Unincorporated Area Council meeting.

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North Highline Fire District benefit-charge vote ahead August 5th: Presentation @ NHUAC

June 11th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Election, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 4 Comments »

Heard about the “benefit charge” for the North Highline Fire District that’ll be on the August primary ballot? If not, here’s your primer, from last Thursday night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting:

Lt. Ray Pettigrew stood in for Chief Mike Marrs, who he said couldn’t make it because of illness. With maps and a PowerPoint, he explained the money proposal, as well as some basics about the NHFD itself:

*Each station has 1 engine staffed with three firefighters at any given time, he said – sometimes a bit more because of volunteers.

*Vast majority of the job is going on aid calls

*278 false alarms – “almost one per day”

*42 hazmat calls

*526 “other” calls – illegal burns, barbecues mistaken for fires

About 12 calls a day between the two stations, so “they’re pretty busy.”

He says it’s a matter of financial need – “we’ve done everything we can to try to cut expenses
… we’ve used reserves … we’ve contracted to have Burien chief also be the North Highline chief,” but they’re about out of reserves if no new funding is found. In addition, he noted, the district has gotten smaller, with the 2010 Burien annexation, for example.

Proposition 1 on the August ballot needs a simple yes/no vote. If passed, it sets up a six-year run for the charge – with potential renewals thereafter. It’s not a tax, Pettigrew stressed, “it’s a fee,” and it’s charged based on factors such as square footage and whether a building has sprinklers or not.

For the average owner of a 2,000 square foot home worth $250,000, their tax/fee bill would go up $6/month, he said. It would only be charged for structures, not for empty land. Other districts with a “benefit charge” include Kent, Auburn, Woodinville, and Eastside Fire.

“It allows us to stabilize our funding so we’re not subject to property values going up and down, more ability to plan long range,” he said.

The NHFD commissioners voted at their April meeting to put it on the August ballot.

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Fire district’s future in the spotlight @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council next Thursday

May 30th, 2014 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

As the flyer shows, the next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting is less than a week away. And it’s a hot topic in more ways than one, as announced by NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin:

When: Thursday, June 5 – 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station – 1243 112th Street SW

Please plan on joining us for an important community discussion regarding the future of our North Highline Fire District (NHFD). The residents of North Highline will have an opportunity to vote in August on a “Benefit Charge” to provide much needed support our NHFD. Fire Chief Mike Marrs will provide information on the past, present and future of fire district and what impact the Benefit Charge will have on property owners as well as the fire district.

We will also have our White Center Storefront Deputy BJ Myers on hand to provide updates on crime trends – this is a great time to share your concerns regarding community safety.

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Early-morning fire guts 13th SW home; no one hurt

April 7th, 2014 Tracy Posted in fire, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 5 Comments »

North Highline Fire District crews are still at the scene of a house fire on 13th SW south of SW Roxbury. The incident commander tells WCN that no one was in the house when it caught fire before dawn; there are residents in an RV on the property, and the house was full of items being stored. An investigator will be working in the hours ahead to find out what started the fire.

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Video: White Center Heights Elementary kindergarteners meet first responders

March 13th, 2014 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on Video: White Center Heights Elementary kindergarteners meet first responders

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Thanks again to White Center Heights Elementary PTA president David Sonsteng for the alert about the WCH kindergarteners’ big day today – Emergency Services Day. The weather was perfect for them to meet their visitors outside – above, the North Highline Fire District; below, the King County Sheriff’s Office Air Support Unit and its famous helicopter Guardian One:
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Listen to the excitement in our video clip recorded as the helicopter approached and landed:

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Also on hand – an American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance crew. If public-safety crews respond to an injury/illness situation that is not necessarily serious enough to require a medic unit, the private ambulance crews of AMR are called in.
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This was part of a “community helpers” module the kindergarteners were working on, Sonsteng explained. First graders were part of the event too.

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King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, North Highline firefighters visit Beverly Park Elementary School

October 19th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Helicopter, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, North Highline firefighters visit Beverly Park Elementary School

(Also published on partner site The South Park News)

Kids at Beverly Park Elementary – just south of South Park – got a big thrill Friday when the King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Guardian One came to visit. Our video shows its landing. Luckily the fog had lifted enough that they could keep their appointment.

That’s Deputy John Pugh, above, who flies Guardian One.

North Highline firefighters were there too:

The students were excited to meet the visiting law enforcers and get a look at their cars.

Later, a busy day and night resumed for KCSO’s air support unit – here’s a tweet with both their helicopters, Guardian 1 and Guardian 2:

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White Center house fire under investigation; no injuries reported

June 9th, 2013 Tracy Posted in fire, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on White Center house fire under investigation; no injuries reported

King County’s fire investigator is working to find out what caused a house fire in the 10600 block of 17th SW; thanks to the readers who messaged us about it. It’s out now. Nobody home when it happened, and no injuries were reported, the North Highline Fire District incident commander told us.

Lesley recorded video while smoke was pouring from the house:

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Late-night house fire under investigation

May 8th, 2013 Tracy Posted in fire, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on Late-night house fire under investigation

Fire did major damage to a house on 28th SW just north of Explorer West Middle School late Tuesday night. A King County fire investigator was on scene early this morning trying to find out what started the fire; the incident commander from North Highline Fire District told WCN that the homeowner wasn’t home when it started – though he had arrived by the time we got there – and nobody was hurt.

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