Grays Harbor Fire Protection District 17 levy passes by 22 votes

Money to be used to address deferred maintenance and fixing apparatus

After 21 days of vote tabulations, the Grays Harbor Auditor’s Office released its final ballot count ahead of certification day. While many of the races and levies seemed to have been decided only a few days after Election Day, others were tightly contested affairs. That was the case for one levy race in Grays Harbor.

On Nov. 8, Grays Harbor County Fire Protection District 17 gave a proposition to voters in its district to approve a levy to help afford budgetary needs by increasing its regular property tax levy for maintenance and operations. On Nov. 29, the Humptulips-based district learned that the levy garnered support from nearly 55% of eligible voters, earning a mere 22 more “yes” votes than “no” votes.

“It means we don’t go bankrupt in a year and a half,” said Eliane Judd, who serves as the district secretary for Fire Protection District 17. “The reason we asked for the levy was that we knew we weren’t going to survive as a fire district after the next 18 months. We couldn’t wait until the last minute to do something.”

Judd noted this is the first time the district has needed levy support since 2004 when the voters passed an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) measure. With the new levy support, this proposition will authorize the district to increase its levy from $.66 per $1,000 to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, to be levied in 2022 for collection in 2023.

While some levy organizers tend to have a feel for how the community will respond to the financial request, mixed feelings and heaps of gratitude took center stage for the district.

“Honestly, it’s a little bit of a surprise. We all had different thoughts on how this vote might be but we’re all extremely grateful for the people supporting the levy,” Judd said. “We understand that a lot of people voted against the levy, and I don’t blame them. These are tough times for a lot of us, but I think the community is really seeing all the work that our district is doing to try and build credibility as well as leadership.”

Judd was adamant that although the district will be receiving more money, the goal is to keep the budget tight and address longstanding issues within the district. Before the levy vote, spending had dropped significantly over the last three years for the district, cutting back nearly a third of what was spent in 2019.

“We have a lot of deferred maintenance that needs to be worked on as well as fixing our apparatus,” Judd said. “It’s refreshing to think that we can now combat some of those things so that way we can keep the district running smoothly and responding to emergencies in the community safely and effectively.”