Ludlow voters OK fire district merger

Special meeting set for tonight

PORT LUDLOW — Port Ludlow voters have overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, the ballot measure to merge Jefferson County Fire Protection District No. 3 (Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue) into East Jefferson Fire Rescue by 87.6 percent on Tuesday.

The next count of ballots will be today. Only voters within District 3 voted on the measure, which required a simple majority for approval. The merger will go into effect Jan. 1.

Port Ludlow will be absorbed into East Jefferson and the existing commissioners from each district will continue to govern the merged district until the number is reduced through resignations or a vacancy.

Port Ludlow Fire Chief Bret Black, who is also chief of East Jefferson Fire Rescue (EFJR), said that he was a little bit relieved that the measure passed, but was mostly enthusiastic about the results.

“I see it as the support the community has for our great firefights and approval for the services we provide,” he said. “Now that we have this decisive and definitive moment, we can look ahead and start integrating these two great agencies.”

Approval of the measure formalizes the relationship between the two fire districts which have been operating under an interlocal agreement since May 2021.

Black said the merger will result in a number of cost efficiencies and savings that can be redirected to better services,; however the district still faces significant financial challenges, he said.

“Our revenue does not come close to equal our expenses every year, so we’ve been spending reserves at a significant level,” Black said. “Now we’re to the point where we have postponed all of the major expenses and capital improvements that we possibly can. We can’t keep spending the way we’ve been spending.”

One solution under consideration but not yet approved by the commissioners is a resolution seeking a levy lid lift on the Feb. 14 special election ballot.

“I can’t say we are [seeking a lid lift], but we are actively reviewing all of our options,” Black said. “This is the most impactful option because we’ve cut everything that we can possibly cut from the budget. There’s nothing left to cut.”

At a special public meeting at 6 p.m. tonight, EJFR’s 2022 strategic plan will be discussed and consultants from Citygate Associates will present the standards of coverage plan it assembled for the district. The meeting will be at Station 1-1, 9193 Rhody Drive, Chimacum. To join the hybrid meeting by computer, tablet or smartphone, go to https://meet.goto.com/613910221. By phone, dial 408- 650-3123; access: 613-910-221.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com

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