Fire district merger likely to be on August ballots in Monroe


Monroe voters could see the Monroe Fire District 3 and Clearview Fire District 7 merger proposal on their August ballots, pending an affirmative vote by Monroe and Clearview fire commissioners.

Districts 3 and 7 began the merger discussion in August 2015, wanting to increase efficiencies in both departments through combined resources, shared staff and a reduction of duplicate positions. District 3 serves a 55-square-mile area that includes Monroe, while District 7 serves 52 square miles in the Clearview/Maltby area, including Mill Creek.

Should the merger pass through the fire commissioners and voters, District 3 would be absorbed into District 7, forming one contiguous 107-mile district.

Since District 3 is the merging agency, its residents will need to vote on the matter. Should the merger take place, District 3 residents would see a reduction in their property taxes from a projected $2.10 per $1,000 of assessed value to a projected $1.98 per $1,000 of assessed value, as they would take on District 7's tax rate.

District 7 Fire Chief Gary Meek and District 3 Chief Jamie Silva went before the Monroe City Council on Tuesday, April 5, to give the city an update on the potential merger and two upcoming public hearings. The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14 and April 28, at Station 31 in Monroe.

The board is expected to vote on April 28 whether to place the merger resolution on the Aug. 2 ballot.

The overall goal of the merger is to reduce bureaucracy and provide a higher level of public safety, Silva said. The districts functionally combined their administrations at the beginning of the year, in order to test compatibility in preparation for an actual merger. Executive staff, human resources and finance have been combined and located at Monroe's Station 31, while fire prevention and EMS moved to District 7's Station 71, near the intersection of State Route 9 and 180th in Clearview.

So far, the consolidation has augmented both agencies. District 7 gained District 3's robust fire prevention division and fire marshal, while District 3 has gained a human resources director and financial officer/accountant, Silva said. The addition of an accountant at District 3 has allowed District 3 employee Elsa Sexton to focus on her area of expertise as the Geographic Information System (GIS) administrator.-á -á

Both agencies have benefitted from public information officer/public educator Heather Chadwick, who was hired in December. Chadwick is responsible for maintaining relationships with media, disseminating information to the public and coordinating fire and other safety programs in the community.-á -á

"The efficiencies have been excellent,GÇ¥ Silva said.

The two departments have a history of successfully working together; they have jointly operated the Monroe maintenance shop since the early 1990s and recently implemented a shared Community Resource Paramedic (CRP) program.

Meek gave councilmembers an overview of the CRP program and how it's going. -á -á

The CRP is meant to preemptively work with high-need patients by connecting them with non-emergency medical care or other social services. The goal is to reduce the number of patients using 911 as their primary form of health management through interactive care that includes house calls. District 7 firefighter/paramedic Scott Koch was hired for the position, which jointly serves Districts 3, 7 and the Lake Stevens Fire Department.-á

The CRP program started last summer and has been extremely successful, Meek said, receiving positive feedback from patients and their families. They recently received a letter from the family of a Monroe woman who Koch worked with for about six months.-á -á

"She ended up passing away, but the family wrote a letter thanking him for everything that he did and referred to him as a "guardian angel in the process,' GÇ¥ Meek said. "They felt that her dignity and the help that he provided to her in those last few months was just phenomenal.GÇ¥

Meek said Koch is known for his energy and enthusiasm for the job.

"That's kind of the standing joke ' if you need a little bit of motivation or inspiration, you just get within about 10 feet of that guy,GÇ¥ Meek said. "He's full of energy and he just loves to help people.GÇ¥

In addition to benefits related to staff efficiencies, there are logistical benefits associated with merging the two districts, Meek said. By removing those boundaries, first responders are better equipped to navigate challenges associated with State Route 522. District 7 is able to respond to calls that Monroe can't get to in the mornings due to traffic backups on the highway, and the reverse is also true, Meek said.

"If it's in the evening time, we have trouble getting off of the Echo Lake Road into that area,GÇ¥ Meek said.

An official merger would make all the efficiencies made so far permanent, Silva said. The new district would serve about 110,000 residents in east and south central Snohomish County, with eight staffed fire stations.

The only thing they haven't been able to figure out, he added, is what to name the new district.

"That's been kind of our biggest problem,GÇ¥ Silva said.

To learn more about the merger, visit or Monroe's Station 31 is at 163 Village Court in Monroe.

Photo by Chris Hendrickson District 3 Chief Jamie Silva and District 7 Fire Chief Gary Meek went before the Monroe City Council on Tuesday, April 5.


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