South Kitsap Fire and Rescue crews train in a parking lot to douse commercial fires. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News file photo)

South Kitsap Fire and Rescue crews train in a parking lot to douse commercial fires. (Bob Smith | Kitsap Daily News file photo)

SKFR asking taxpayers to approve $39.5 million capital facilities bond

November ballot measure will fund construction of three new fire stations and public safety complex

PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap Fire and Rescue and its board of commissioners said Tuesday they will place a $39.5 million capital facilities bond on the Nov. 3 general election ballot to build three new fire stations and a public safety complex within its service area.

Jeff Faucett, who assumed the position of fire chief following the retirement of Steve Wright last month, said the 20-year bond also will cover seismic upgrades to SKFR’s existing fire stations.

“These efforts will provide critical infrastructure to the community for the next 50 years, reduce 911 fire and medical emergency response times and improve firefighter health and safety,” Faucett said in a news release.

Faucett said the new structures to be built through the funding provided by the bond will provide the South Kitsap community with “adequate services based on current trends and future growth projects.” He said the board of commissioners was prepared to place the measure on the Aug. 4 primary election ballot, but due to COVID-19, members concluded they needed to postpone the vote in order to assess the financial impacts of the pandemic to the community.

“This was the right decision based on giving our community some time to recover from the statewide shutdown earlier this spring as a result of COVID-19,” Faucett said. “Meeting the current needs of our community is our top priority; however, we can’t lose sight of our future needs.”

The fire chief said many of SKFR’s current stations were built in the 1960s and ’70s, and are unable to house modern fire apparatus. He said they do not meet safety standards for a modern workforce and current building standards for seismic stability.

Faucett said SKFR’s building plan calls for consolidating staffing from five smaller stations into the three new stations. He said when those stations are completed, each will house enough firefighters to staff a fire engine and an ambulance instead of just one crew.

“This concentrated staffing will provide a second crew that can cover the station’s service area when multiple calls occur in the same region,” he said.

The fire chief said that “responsible stewardship of the physical and financial resources provided by our citizens is a core principle of SKFR … Delaying these projects will place the district further behind the rapid growth in population and service demand we are seeing in the South Kitsap area.”

South Kitsap property owners approved a $4.9 million bond measure five years ago by a comfortable margin that allowed the fire district to purchase badly needed fire apparatus to replace well-worn units, including a water tender that was nearly 40 years old. That bond measure, which is currently assessed at 10 cents per thousand dollars of a home’s assessed value will be retired at the end of this year.

The new bond will cost about 17 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value, creating a net increase over the current tax rate of about seven cents per thousand dollars. That would result in an increase of approximately $21 a year on a $300,000 home in South Kitsap.

“As a taxpayer, I think this is a very wise investment in our community,” Faucett said.

The fire chief said he wants to hear from the public about the bond measure. Because of the current limitations for in-person meetings, Faucett said he will be conducting virtual meetings with the public beginning in August.

More information about the bond measure is on SKFR’s website at www.skfr.org or can be obtained by contacting Faucett at jfaucett@skfr.org.

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