County agrees to pay FD5 for fairgrounds coverage

Fire District 5 will collect payment from Grays Harbor County for fire protection services at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds in Elma following the approval of an agreement by the Grays Harbor County commissioners on Dec. 4. Commissioner Vickie Raines was the lone dissenting vote to the agreement.

Fire Districts are allowed to collect a fee from government entities for fire protection. In years past, Fire District 5 has not collected the fee from the county, but in 2016, the fire district started the process.

“It took this long to get it settled,” Fire District 5 Chief Dan Prater said.

While the amount the fire district will collect from the county is currently undetermined, Prater says the most recent estimate was about $5,000 per year.

The fee is based on a formula that uses assessed value and the levy rate within the district.

The county will pay based on the assessment of the fairgrounds only. The Grays Harbor County Raceway, which is leased to a promoter, will not be included because fire services are paid for through the lease-hold tax.

“I started looking into it because the last few years our revenue has just been dropping and dropping,” Prater said. “Over the last three-plus years we’ve watched our fire district get prorated on our taxes, and we’re watching costs for services increase. Were just trying to cover our own.”

“The intent is the fairness — if citizens and business are paying theirs, the government should have to as well,” he added.

After the county commission meeting, Raines said she believes the fee is retaliatory for increased E911 costs, and that’s why she voted against the agreement.

“It is not retaliatory,” Prater said. “This process started long before any of this stuff (with E911). In the tax world, the county gets to be the big dog at the top of the pyramid and we get whatever is left over. If we didn’t have cost, I would be looking for more revenue.”