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Maple Valley hosts annual joint meeting with school district and fire department

The city of Maple Valley hosted a joint meeting with the Tahoma School District and Maple Valley Fire and Life Safety at it's City Council meeting on Monday.

The purpose of the joint meeting was for the different groups to update each other on recent activities.

Maple Valley Fire Chief Brad Doerflinger gave a presentation which he referred to as a "state of the union for Maple Valley Fire and Life Safety."

Doerflinger said the fire district collected $5.95 million in property taxes in 2013, down from a peak of $6.95 million in 2010. Thanks to the levy lid lift that was passed by voters last year he added they expect to collect more this year, and that two new firefighters have been hired and both started work on Monday.

"Capital needs are going to be met through 2017 without going back to voters," Doerflinger told those assembled at the meeting. One way the fire district is doing that is by extending the life of the district's vehicles through procedural changes, thereby putting off planned purchases in the near future. Instead of automatically sending a fire engine on every call, operations have been changed so that both an engine and an aid car aren't sent if both aren't needed. That, Doerflinger said, reduces miles on the vehicles and extends vehicle life. Instead of a 10-year life, Doerflinger said they may now last 12-15 years.

In addition, property has been purchased for the site of a future fire station in Hobart, and there is talk of combining two of the stations in Maple Valley at some point in the future.

Doerflinger also spoke about new technology the district is using where calls come to firefighters phones and they can pull up a map directly on their phone of the location of the call. This, Doerflinger said will help improve response times throughout the district.

Lastly, Doerflinger said that the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau evaluated the district's fire protection capabilities last year. In July of 2013 WSRB upgraded the city from a protection class rating of 4 to a rating of 3, and outside the city limits from a 5 to a 4. Doerflinger essentially explained the protection classes as an "insurance rating."

"Every homeowner in Maple Valley should potentially see a reduction in their fire insurance," Doerflinger said of the benefit of the improved rating.

During the school district's portion of the meeting, incoming superintendent Rob Morrow gave a brief presentation on the progress of the design process of the new Tahoma High School, showing those at the meeting some of the design drawings for the new school and discussing the layout of the building and athletic facilities.

He also spoke about the district reviewing its high school programs to make sure they are applicable in 2017 when the new school is slated to open.

When asked about the plans and a potential timeline for work at Lake Wilderness Elementary, Morrow said that work on the school cannot begin until after the high school is completed and the district has begun to shift students throughout the district.

"Summer of 2017 is when we would start a significant remodel or a tear down and build up, whichever is most cost effective," Morrow said.

During the city's portion of the meeting, various staff members presented about the city's collaboration with the school district in terms of the high school project, which at this point mainly consists of working on use agreements and zoning changes for the property. City Manager David Johnston also spoke about the city's financial future and the need for economic development to diversify the city's tax base.

"What's really neat about this new high school/regional learning center is that we have an anchor," Johnston said of how the high school project and economic development can go hand-in-hand. "That's why I think staff is so excited."

 

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