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Three Spokane area fire levies approved, one fails

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
Voters in Spokane Valley approved a measure to increase their property taxes to fund the fire department.

They were among the measures on Spokane County's primary election ballot.

Spokane County’s canvassing board certified the primary election on Tuesday. The results brought good news for three fire districts, but bad news for another.

Voters in the fire districts that serve the West Plains (District 3), the north county (District 4) and Spokane Valley re-authorized property tax levies that will continue to fund firefighters’ work.

The District 4 levy in north Spokane passed by a more than two-to-one margin. The races in the other districts were tighter. Both won about 53% of the vote. Spokane Valley asked to increase the tax rate to the maximum allowed. Chief Frank Soto, Junior says his department needs the money to keep serving a growing population.

“Cardiac arrests are way up, 40%. Opioid overdoses are up almost 80%. So it’s not just people moving here. The calls are just increasing. Bad things are still happening," he said.

Voters in Fire District 13, which serves Newman Lake, 62% of voters gave a big thumbs-down to an increase in the levy rate there. Chief Stan Cooke says his department needs to transition from an all-volunteer force to a combination professional-volunteer. Before the election, Cooke said the district needed the additional money to hire two full-time firefighters who could train volunteers.

“So if I don’t train them and I can’t hire them because we don’t have a training program, then we’ll just go back to all volunteers and then I’ll see where else I cut and then people will go, ‘Wait a minute. You’ve got to keep the doors open,' he said.

Cooke had anticipated the measure might fail and that he would have to come back to voters next year with a less ambitious levy proposal.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.