The Seattle Times
KIRKLAND, Wash. — Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Kirkland officials intended to put a levy measure on the November 2020 election ballot that would help pay for the Eastside city's fire and medical services and to upgrade its firehouses.
But the COVID-19 outbreak at Life Care Center this year — the first outbreak in the U.S. — in Kirkland underscored the need for more resources, Mayor Penny Sweet said. Every shift was covered, but at one point, 34 of the Fire Department's roughly 100 personnel were in quarantine. They had enough personal protective equipment, but the supply has been depleted.
"We had enough PPE, and now we have none," Sweet said. "Having that stockpile made a difference for us when Life Care first happened."
Kirkland voters will decide whether to pass Proposition 1, a measure that would increase the property tax levy to about 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value.
The levy would generate about $7.3 million per year, according to the city. Of that amount, about half would go toward building a new fire station north of EvergreenHealth Medical Center and upgrading stations 21, 22 and 26. The new station, Fire Station 27, would house eight firefighters and emergency medical technicians and be the second station east of Interstate 405. The current Fire Station 27, the city's busiest, was built more than 40 years ago. The building will be repurposed.
The project is estimated to cost about $28 million, according to the city. Fire stations 21, 22 and 26, which are all between 20 and 40 years old, would be renovated.
If approved, the owner of a home valued at $750,000, the median value in Kirkland, would pay an additional $171 in 2021.
The remaining funds would allow the city to hire 20 firefighters/EMTs and distribute the workers so that more stations can respond to two incidents at a time. Some fire stations currently have three firefighters/EMTs at a time, preventing the station from responding to a second call.
Kirkland would also use the money to increase its collection of PPE, like N95 masks and gloves. The city was lucky at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweet said, because it had masks left over from the SARS pandemic.
The measure, which has no formal opposition, requires a majority of votes to pass.
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