On February 24, 2020 City of Elma City Council and Grays Harbor Fire District 5 Commissioners met at a work session to discuss the City of Elma annexing in to and becoming part of Grays Harbor Fire Protection District 5.

City and fire district officials agree; Voters should be asked to support Grays Harbor County Fire District 5 annexing the city of Elma into and becoming part of its coverage area.

On April 6, 2020 the City of Elma Council voted unanimously to pass a city ordinance to submit to the voters a ballot measure to annex in to and become part of Grays Harbor Fire District 5. On April 7, 2020 Fire District 5 commission voted unanimously in favor of a concurrent resolution to submit to the voters a ballot measure to annex the city of Elma in to and become part of Grays Harbor Fire District 5.

The City of Elma and Grays Harbor Fire District 5 have taken many steps since 2008, working together to build what is now a successful partnership and the annexation would benefit both fire departments. The Elma City Council, Grays Harbor Fire District 5 Commissioners and both Chief Boling and Chief Fulbright agree that next logical step to improving our Fire and EMS service to the citizens, enhancing firefighter safety and controlling future cost is to Annex the Cities fire and EMS services. It will improve funding for other needed projects, including public safety; and for the fire district, which makes long-term planning more efficient.

The City of Elma has several agreements in place with the Fire District. First is a contract to provide Emergency Medical Services to the city. Second, is an Interlocal Agreement for Joint occupancy and operation of the Elma Fire station and finally they have an automatic aid agreement for all fire and rescue calls helping provide a safer and more efficient firefighting force to serve the community of the city and the district. The annexation would combine to the fire agencies together eliminating the need for multiple contacts and agreements.

The proposition will appear on the February 9, 2021 special election ballot for City of Elma and Fire District 5 voters, asking for the approval of annexation. Ballots are expected to be mailed to all registered voters by January 24, 2021. The proposition requires a simple majority to pass. Currently, property owners in the City of Elma pay a property tax to the city, a city utility tax then pays the fire district to provide its medical services. The City of Elma would no longer pay for emergency medical services if annexed into the fire district.

Property owners in the Fire District pay a fire levy, which would not increase.

If annexed, property owners in the City would pay a projected fire levy at $1.29 per $1,000 of assessed property value — the same amount as district property owners, officials said.

Due to the continued growth in the city and the increased need for services and demands on the volunteer forces. The Elma volunteer Fire Department is not able to sustain its current staffing model and be able to serve the community’s needs. Annexing the fire and EMS protection services in to and becoming part of Grays Harbor Fire District 5 creates a combination Fire and EMS service staffed with both Volunteers and Career personnel. This staffing model improves the response times to the community, enhances the safety of fire and EMS personnel and provides full-time staff to help manage the training, administrative and operational mandates.

In addition, annexing the two departments together provides an opportunity for long term planning and controls futures costs. Both the City of Elma and Fire District 5 are neighbors who protect and provide services to the same community and have the same needs such as, upgrading fire engines, fire stations and additional staffing to meet the needs of our community. Annexing are agencies together eliminates duplication in facility and equipment needs thus controlling future cost.

The annexation will protect the current level and quality of services for people in both communities, and all property owners will be able to vote for fire commissioners, levies and bonds.

As soon as Governors Inslee’s Stay Home Stay Safe proclamation is lifted several open houses will be scheduled to provide information about the annexation.

Residents can learn more by visiting the district website at www.ghfd5.org. City of Elma residents with questions can contact Chief Tyson Boling at 360-482-2812 or [email protected]. Fire District residents with questions can contact Chief Adam Fulbright at 360-482-6266 or [email protected].