PORT TOWNSEND — Voters in Jefferson County approved the East Jefferson Fire-Rescue annexation and two Port Townsend school levies by wide margins during Tuesday’s special election.
The Jefferson County Auditor’s Office staff said voter turnout was low, at just 34.69 percent during the first ballot count, with 6,238 ballots cast out of 17,984 provided registered voters.
The next count in the all-mail election will be by 4 p.m. Friday.
The annexation of Port Townsend into the East Jefferson Fire Rescue passed by more than a 2-1 margin both within the city and within the district.
East Jefferson Fire Rescue now provides fire and emergency medical services in Port Townsend but by contract. The measure will make the city part of the district.
The annexation measure was required to be approved by a simple majority in both the city of Port Townsend and in the East Jefferson Fire-Rescue (EJFR) district which includes the unincorporated communities of Cape George, Chimacum, Irondale, Kala Point, Marrowstone Island and Port Hadlock.
Annexation was approved in Port Townsend by 2,028 votes or 69.26 percent in favor, to 900 votes, or 30.74 percent opposed. In the EJFR district, the tally was 2,099 votes, or 67.84 percent in favor to 995 votes, or 32.16 percent opposed.
“EJFR would like to convey our appreciation for the support of the community,” said Chief Jim Walkowski in a prepared statement. “We are pleased that voters recognized that the current interlocal agreement was not a permanent solution.
“Through voter support and annexation approval, we have now completed the final step in a 12-year process to improve efficiencies and become a combined entity. Now that the annexation has been approved, a series of deliverables and milestones must be achieved.”
He said efforts will focus on improving district-wide fire and life-safety initiatives.
“Specifically, the funds will be utilized to enhance Fire Code Management services, consisting of plan review, code enforcement and fire investigation services with a goal of reducing community life, property and other loss due to fire.”
He said a ballot measure will be brought forward in August for voters to agree to the expansion of the current three-member board of fire commissioners to a five-member board, giving the city two seats. One at-large member will be added in addition to two seats from the district.
“The objective is to ensure that city residents who are newly introduced to the district will have commensurate voting representation,” he said.
“We are thrilled,” said Port Townsend School Superintendent John Polm after Tuesday’s results were reported.
Also requiring simple majorities for passage were an educational programs and school support levy to replace one that will expire in December and a $3.625 million capital levy to replace one competed in 2016.
The educational levy won with 3,145 votes, or 66.49 percent, in favor and 1,585 votes, or 33.51 percent, opposed.
The capital levy won with 3,082 votes or 65.17 percent in favor and 1,647 votes or 34.83 percent opposed.
“We are thankful that the Port Townsend community is so supportive of its schools,” Polm said.
“It’s a hard time to be working through the McCleary decision” in which the state Surpeme Court ruled that the state was not properly funding public education “and it’s comforting to know we will be funded,” Polm added. “It relieves a lot of stress.”
Polm said that budget development can begin for the district and “now we know we can plan forward because of the local levy support.”
“We know what revenues we’ll have from the state and our projections through 2022. This is especially true for the capital levy and facility and maintenance priorities we need to lay out and begin planning.”
He said the first project will be adding ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] access at the high school.
He said the goal is to have two elevators operational beginning in the fall.
Mayor Deborah Stinson said she was “elated” with the election results.
“When the results came in, we were thrilled that our voters are willing to invest in community wholeheartedly,” Stinson said.
“By passing both of the school district propositions and fire district and city, it speaks volumes about how people care about their community.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]