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Central Mason-Grapeview fire merger passes

With the results of the final ballot count set for 5 p.m. today, two fire and medical service measures on the April 23 special election ballot were passing overwhelmingly.

Grapeview Fire District 3's proposed merger with Central Mason Fire District 5 to provide fire and emergency medical services to areas served by the two districts had 573 approval votes for 77.64%, and 165 rejection votes for 22.36%.

West Mason Fire District 16's proposed property tax levy of 50 cents or less per $1,000 of assessed valuation for six years, beginning this year, for emergency medical services received 497 "yes" votes for 60.68%, and 322 "no" votes for 39.32%.

Both needed a simple majority to pass. Voter turnout was 33.8%. The Mason County Auditor's Office's canvassing board will review challenged ballots at 2 p.m. today and certify the election results at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Board of Commissioners of Fire District 3 in November unanimously approved and filed a petition with District 5 to be merged with it. The District 5 Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution approving District 3's petition. Voter approval is the final step.

If the merger passes, the levy rate would increase 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, effective July 1.

"I am very pleased with the positive response to the merger by voters of Mason Fire District 3," Chief Patti Graeber wrote in an email to the Journal. "I am also very excited for Mason 3 to join CMFE officially. We have worked together with CMFE for many, many years, but a merger will allow for much growth for our fire district and also enhance opportunities for CMFE.

"With the merger there are many benefits for Mason 3. We will have increased staff assigned to the main station on Grapeview Loop Road. This will allow the station to remain staffed when personnel are out sick or on vacation. The rules and regulations required of fire districts are significant and joining CMFE includes a fully trained and experienced administrative staff to handle these requirements. The concerns for many small fire districts including ours regarding staffing, increased costs of benefits and wages, cost of supplies and services and the complexities of administrative requirements are also going to be addressed by this unification. I am very excited for both fire districts to officially begin work together to provide the best service possible to our citizens."

Graeber said she is retiring at the end of the year, "and cannot be more pleased and content to know our community will still be receiving personalized, professional service in the future."

In an email to the Journal, Central Mason Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Snyder said the personnel in the district are "very happy with the merger."

"It is good to see so many folks in the community hear the message about fire service mergers and consolidations," Snyder wrote. "Eliminating duplicated services, such as multiple fire chiefs. This, along with consolidating administrative staff, maintenance programs, training officers, etc. These changes, over time, mean more firefighters and paramedics on the ground responding to emergencies. This is what we need more of. All parties involved, Fire District 3's Fire Chief Patti Graeber and the Mason 3 commissioners, along with our fire commissioners and our local fire union IAFF Local 2394, have worked diligently toward the merger. It takes a team effort to make such changes. I'm looking forward to working with all the staff and citizens of Grapeview. I think of them as our new family members."

West Mason Fire District 16's new levy will only be used for medical services. The voter pamphlet states that about 60% of calls for services to the district are emergency medical service calls.

Author Bio

Gordon Weeks, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald


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