The road to establishing the Central Grays Harbor Regional Fire Authority seems to be paved with good intentions.
After all, who wouldn’t like more local firefighters on the job and a stronger overall operation serving Aberdeen and Hoquiam. But that might not be enough to get the go-ahead voters because this issue is going to boil down to money.
A little more insight into the money needed to pay for the agency emerged at the end of last month when the Aberdeen City Council agreed to place the plan on the November ballot via a 10-2 vote.
The expected move came on the heels of the Hoquiam City Council also giving the green light earlier last month. A total of 60 percent of voters in both cities would have to approve the plan because of the funding mechanism used for the fire authority.
That funding mechanism calls for a hefty hike in property taxes — something that was not lost on Aberdeen City Council Ward 3 representative Kati Kachman when the governing body approved the plan.
Kachman, along with Ward 1 representative Melvin Taylor, voted against the plan that would merge the Aberdeen Fire Department and Hoquiam Fire Department.
“When you look at sample impacts to our residents, they amount from a 55% overall increase to, in one case, an 83% increase to what is being paid today. This is a $25 per month to $60 per month depending on the size and value of the home,” Kachman said in a story published by The Daily World.
“Comparatively, the examples provided for Hoquiam were around a 40% percent to 53% increase. Overall, I believe this is too much of an increase.”
Now, if you are the property owner who is going to see an 83% increase in your tax bill to help fund the regional fire authority (RFA), you might have a similar take on the issue.
But, who knows, that property owner might be OK with the tax increase. We are not so sure about the 55% increase and above to other property tax owners referred to as sample impacts.
Kachman noted the Hoquiam City Council unanimously approved the plan “and I understand why, this is really great for them. And when Westport approved the formation of an RFA, they presented their citizens with a cost savings.
“I know that we need to move forward with something now, and we’re in dire straits, but this plan needs to be modified so it’s in the best interest of Aberdeen citizens.”
Well, it appears to be too late to modify the plan because it has been slotted for the November ballot. That leaves Aberdeen and Hoquiam less than three months before election day to make their case for the tax increase. Not a lot of time, less so considering ballots are scheduled to be mailed out to voters a few weeks before the election.
And it doesn’t help that the aspect of the plan getting a lot of attention is the expense. Learning bits and pieces of what the plan is going to cost only muddles the situation. The two cities must find a simpler way to better explain the costs because that gives them the best chance of getting the plan approved by voters.
Go to aberdeenwa.gov/417/Central-Grays-Harbor-Regional-Fire-Autho to see the plan.