Residents served by the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority rejected tax levies that support maintenance and operations that were on the Nov. 8 ballot, leaving the district no choice but to limit services and lay off workers.
According to a Nov. 23 letter from interim fire chief Rob Smith, the department ran two tax levies to support Fire Districts 1 and 11. Both needed supermajorities of 60% approval to pass. The Rochester levy got close, with 59.3% approval; the Littlerock levy received just 51.5% approval. “Unfortunately, moving into 2023 there will be a severe funding shortfall, not only affecting each station and staff, but our community members individually,” Smith said in the letter.
The failure means three stations will close their doors Thursday, Dec. 1. They are the Albany Street station in Rochester, the Maytown station and the Scott Lake station. The two other stations, Sargent Road and Littlerock Road, will remain open as staffing permits.
As a result of the ballot failures, Smith said response times will be longer, employees will be laid off, and low priority calls won’t get a response. On top of that, fire insurance premiums are expected to increase by the end of 2023, meaning residents may end up paying more in the long run for tax levy failures.