Seattle City Council
7/21/2003 5:03:00 PM
COUNCIL SENDS $167 MILLION FIRE FACILITIES AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS LEVY TO NOVEMBER BALLOT
SEATTLE - The Seattle City Council today passed legislation asking voters to approve $167.2 million in construction and renovation of fire stations and emergency facilities in the City. A ballot measure that would raise Seattle property taxes to pay for the improvements will go before voters on November 4.
"This has been a thoughtful debate and we've come up with a good package that people should find worth supporting," said Councilmember Jim Compton, chair of the Police, Fire, Courts & Technology Committee. "This package assures Seattle residents that our fire fighting services and emergency response efforts will withstand a catastrophe, so that personnel can get to the critical work of dealing with that catastrophe."
The Council package cut an original proposal from the Mayor by more than $60 million, but contains at least some renovation work for 32 of the City's 33 fire stations, with action on the fire station beneath the Alaska Way Viaduct withheld until a viaduct plan is in place. In all, 13 stations will be rebuilt and the rest will receive anywhere from modest upgrades to bring them up to seismic code standards, to major renovations that will reconfigure the stations' ability to serve their neighborhoods.
The package also calls for purchase of a new fireboat to combat marine fires, and money to rehabilitate the aging Chief Seattle fireboat to give the Seattle Fire Department two able sea craft. Also included is a plan to build a new Emergency Operations Center, replacing a cramped center adjacent to Fire Station 2 in Belltown.
Nearly every Council member expressed concern about sending a tax measure to voters during the City's worst economic downturn in 30 years, but they also mentioned the need to have working emergency response facilities as a reason to act quickly.
"The fact is that the world has changed, and we need to step up to that fact," said Councilmember Jan Drago, who chairs the Budget Committee and co-chaired the effort to craft the fire facilities plan with Compton. "I'm especially pleased that the first signs people will see of this effort will be new fire hydrants, emergency generators and other amenities in their neighborhoods."
In November, voters will decide whether to approve a nine-year levy that would cost the median Seattle homeowner ($300,000 house) an average of $73 a year over the nine years. The levy will be front-loaded, however, to get many projects started as soon as possible, so the levy will actually be higher in year one ($98 per $300,000 house) than in year nine ($24 per $300,000 house).
"Today's vote signifies a unanimous commitment to the ideals of emergency preparedness in this City, and just as importantly, a commitment to the spirit of collaboration among Council members, the Mayor and his staff, and our dedicated fire fighters in the community," said Council President Peter Steinbrueck.