Correction appended

Rural Washington County residents should get used to seeing Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crews in their communities.

Based on early election results released Tuesday night, voters appear to have approved a plan to merge Washington County Fire District 2 with TVF&R, the state’s largest fire district.

Unofficial results show Measure 34-268 easily passing with 63 percent.

“We are so pleased with the outcome of this election and humbled with the endorsement we’ve received from the community,” TVF&R Fire Chief Mike Duyck said. “We are eager to provide service permanently to residents in North Plains, Midway, Scholls and central Washington County and excited that District 2 firefighters and staff have joined our family. We will be good stewards and fulfill our commitment to provide fast and effective fire and emergency medical service.”

There was no organized opposition to the measure.

For years, residents in Midway, North Plains and the rest of central Washington County have called Fire District 2 during fire emergencies, but the cash-strapped agency asked voters to dismantle the agency and merge with TVF&R.

Bob Satterwhite, a board member with Fire District 2 from Midway said that although voters effectively put him out of a job on Tuesday night, he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m cool with that,” he said. “This was a good night for everybody.”

The district surrounds the city of Hillsboro on three sides, serving the city of North Plains as well as the communities of Helvetia, Rock Creek, Midway, Scholls and Central Washington County.

Property owners in District 2 currently pay about $1.69 per $1,000 in assessed value. That number will rise to $1.97 if the measure is approved. That’s about $394 a year for a $200,000 home, about $56 more per year than what residents in the district currently pay.

TVF&R began working in District 2 on a trial basis in July, expanding the number of firefighters in the district's two fire stations and bringing in additional resources. TVF&R is the largest fire district in the state, serving about a half-million people in Washington, Clackamas and Yamhill counties. Voters in Newberg may be considering a similar measure next year. TVF&R has been under contract in Newberg since July and is considering annexing the area into its district.

District 2 has lacked the funding to make serious change for years, Satterwhite said. Merging with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue will ease tensions among firefighters.

‘The most important factor is stability,” he said. “We have now provided firefighters with employment stability, growth options and promotion potential so they can grow in their careers. We’re providing an amazing resource for our community and the depth of service that we provide in TVF&R is pretty amazing.”

Satterwhite said he had selfish reasons for wanting the measure to pass.

“The resources now available for me, my family and my home have improved dramatically,” Satterwhite said.

That sentiment was echoed by fellow District 2 board member Peggey Halley.

“Before, I would have had to wait several minutes for enough fire companies to have the resources to put the fire out in my house,” she said. “Now, I don’t have to wait for enough people to be there to be safe and get the job done.”

The district faced tough financial challenges, Halley said. Its tax levy was expiring and the district would have had to either raise rates significantly in order to continue or merge with a nearby fire district.

“We couldn’t sustain ourselves with the budget that we had,” Halley said. “This way, the money will be there for the future. It feels really good. The people were all winners tonight. Both the people in the service community and the people that live in this community.”

Editor's Note: This story originally said that Newberg voters would decide on Tuesday whether to annex Newberg Fire into TVF&R. The fire district is considering placing the measure before voters as early as next year.

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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