When the Valley Regional Fire Authority (VRFA) formed in 2007 and put out its first capital bond the next year, its 37-square-mile service area of Auburn, Algona and Pacific numbered 75,000 customers, who, collectively, placed a total 8,700 calls for critical fire protection and life safety services.
That first bond successfully funded the remodeling of Station 32 in southeast Auburn, the construction of Station 33 in Lakeland Hills, and the construction of Station 34 in Lea Hill.
Over the past decade, however, real estate development and population increases have widened the customer base to 97,000 people, served by 145 personnel from its five stations who responded to nearly 16,000 calls for service.
On Nov. 7, the VRFA will ask voters to consider that growth and approve Proposition 1, the second capital facilities bond in its short history.
Prop. 1 authorizes the VRFA to build a new fire station in the northern part of VRFA’s service area, to move and rebuild Station 38 in Pacific to just south of the Algona city limits, and rebuild its headquarters at Station 31 in Auburn. If approved, Prop. 1 would also provide funds for the VRFA to build a training facility and pay for improvements to support services and maintenance facilities to benefit its entire service area.
The new north Station 36 would be built on the property bordered by 30th Street Northeast and I Street NE in Auburn; the relocated Station 38 on the property bordered by Ellingson and Tacoma Blvd. in Pacific and bordering Algona; while Headquarters Station 31 would be rebuilt at its current location.
“Customers would get more reliable service because we’re adding a fire station to our service area,” VRFA Fire Chief Brad Thompson said. “Right now, Station 31 on D Street Northeast covers everything from Highway 18 north to 277th Street. In addition, we have Station 36, which, because of the call volume, has been increasing over the last 15 years of the 2008 bond. We’ve added a ton of housing and population through downtown Auburn and Station 31, so that it’s reached a saturation point where we’re having to draw units in from other fire stations to cover 31’s area.”
The VRFA Board approved Prop. 1 to seek voter approval for the issuance of no more than $96.5 million of general obligation bonds maturing within 20 years, and levy annual property taxes to pay and retire those bonds. The estimated cost will be $12 to $13 per month for the owner of a $450,000 home, which is the median value of homes within the Auburn, Algona and Pacific service area of VRFA.
Should Prop. 1 fail to pass, said Chief Financial Officer Mark Horaski, the VRFA “would consider the election results and determine a path forward.”
Population, call volume and response times would continue to rise as firefighters respond from inefficiently sited, overcrowded and deteriorating fire stations, Horaski added. That’s based on projections from the county, cities and VRFA.
”The overall cost of completing the VRFA’s Capital Facilities Plan would likely increase as construction labor and material costs rise over time,” Horaski said.
Horaski called Prop. 1 the product of a “comprehensive and data-driven approach” to implementing the VRFA’s Capital Facilities Plan, which the VRFA’s Board of Governance adopted in 2019. That plan considers the location of 911 calls, current and projected population growth, and an assessment of the location and condition of existing fire stations and support buildings.
The board determined what Prop. 1 would fund after a multi-year process of data analysis and input from the community, VRFA staff, elected officials, and subject matter experts.
At its July 11, 2023, meeting, the nine-member board, including the mayor and two city council members from each of the partner cities of Algona, Auburn and Pacific, voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
This plan reflects the board’s goal to improve services to all community members and properties located within the VRFA boundaries by strategically locating new fire stations that will more efficiently distribute firefighters throughout the community, improve community-wide response times, and improve the reliability of fire stations and the availability of our firefighters.
The bond issue cannot not be used to provide funds for personnel and salaries — only for new construction, renovation of existing facilities, technology, and purchase of apparatuses and equipment. This plan would acquire land when necessary, build the stations, and provide funding for a training facility and improvements to VRFA’s Support Services and maintenance facilities for a total of no more than $96.5 million.
Horaski said in its 18 years of existence, the VRFA has a strong record as a steward of public funds. The authority is audited annually by the Washington State Auditor and has received positive outcomes on every audit.
“The VRFA works with the region’s best public bond counsel and municipal finance experts to always seek the best approach to managing bond issues on capital projects. The public’s financial interest is always the top priority,” Horaski said.
Oct. 4, Station 31, 1101 D St NE, Auburn, 3-5 pm
Oct. 7, Station 38, 133 3rd Ave SE, Pacific, 2-4 pm
Oct. 18, Station 33, 500 182nd Ave E, Auburn, 6-8 pm
Oct. 21, Station 31, 1101 D St NE, Auburn 10-12 am
Additional information on Prop. 1 is available by calling the VRFA at 253- 288-5800, visiting the website at www.vrfa.org, or sending an email to AsktheVRFA@vrfa.org.