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Merger between CKFR and District 12 could be on again

The number of fire districts serving Central Kitsap might shrink from two to one if voters approve a petition to merge Kitsap County Fire District 12 into Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

The merger, an on-again, off-again discussion for the past 20 years, took a step toward reality on Tuesday, Nov. 13, when the CKFR Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a merger petition submitted by the District 12 Board of Commissioners.

The next step, according to District 12 Commissioner Bob Muhleman, is to contact the district’s residents in Chico, Erlands Point, Wildcat Lake and the northwest portion of Kitsap Lake.

“We’re going to send out a letter explaining what we are doing,” Muhleman said. “We then plan to have a community meeting to answer any questions, which will be followed by a postcard petition to all voters in Fire District 12.”

Muhleman said the board chose to use the mailed petition method instead of conducting a special election because the former was the most cost effective method.

If the petition finds support for the merger, it could be finalized by July 1, 2002.

Saving taxpayers dollars is driving the merger discussion.

District 12 already pays Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue for ambulance response services and is a partner in CKFR’s Station 56, which responds to calls in the Wildcat Lake area. The departments also have a long-standing mutual aid agreement by which Station 51 in Silverdale assists on calls in the Chico-Erlands Point area.

“The bottom line is that we’re able to provide better service to the public in the long run,” CKFR Chief Ken Burdette said. “By bringing these two departments together, we will be able to provide better utilization of the public’s tax dollars.”

The merger would combine the departments’ assets and commissioner boards.

It also would mean the end of the county’s last all-volunteer department. Burdette said he recently met with the volunteers to answer questions.

“It was an opportunity for them to get to know me,” Burdette said. “They have good volunteers there.”

He added that the volunteer staff would remain in place and be augmented by full-time fire crews from stations 51 and 56.

“This is difficult for the firefighters,” Muhleman said. “They’re a close-knit family but we have to do what’s best for our district. We are all going to benefit from a lower Fire Bureau insurance rating in our district.”

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