Voters already within the district overwhelmingly OK bringing Newberg into the fold

With a resounding "yes" from more than 90 percent of voters who cast ballots March 13, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue can proceed toward annexing the city of Newberg and rural areas to its north and west into its territory. The annexations will become official July 1.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Residents of the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue District approved last week measures bringing Newberg and rural land to its north into the fold.

The vote became necessary after petitioners approached the Washington County Board of Commissioners in December challenging the board's decision to bring Newberg into TVF&R's growing district.

Wilsonville lawyer Eric Winters said the petitioners were following procedures outlined by county officials. TVF&R officials argued that the petitions offered insufficient justification for the vote. But county commissioners, based on their counsel's advice, decided to order the election, which costs the fire district in excess of $300,000 because it required a special election.

The special election was necessary because if Newberg and the rural fire district were not brought into TVF&R boundaries by March 31, TVF&R could not have collected property taxes from one or both for the 2018-2019 budget year that starts July 1.

Newberg voters, as well as those in the Newberg Rural Fire Protection District, had heartily approved the annexations, formally called Measure 34-280 and Measure 34-281, in November 2017.

Last week's election indicated that those residents already within the TVF&R district, which extends from eastern Washington County into northwest Multnomah County and into the towns of West Linn and Wilsonville in Clackamas County, overwhelmingly supported bringing Newberg on board. Both measures passed with more than 92 percent of the vote.

"We are so pleased to conclude this final phase of the annexation process," TVF&R Chief Mike Duyck said. "We are honored to provide high-quality fire and emergency medical services to our communities. I believe the people living in the Newberg area and the region are better served by the system we have all built together."

In fact, TVF&R has been serving those areas since mid-2016 after the city of Newberg signed a contract for fire services. The move became necessary due to budget cuts and the increase in demand for fire and emergency medical services in the city, a demand the city could no longer meet.

TVF&R spokeswoman Cassandra Ulven said service improved dramatically in Newberg and the surrounding areas after the contracts began in mid-2016. Newberg city staffing was as low as a single two-person crew on some shifts; under TVF&R, full four-person crews serve the city and the rural area around the clock.

"They knew it was inadequate for the level of service they wanted for their community," Ulven said.

The annexations, which add 61 square miles to TVF&R, will enable the district to collect property taxes for the budget year starting July 1. TVF&R would have been unable to collect taxes if the vote had taken place after March 31, which is the deadline for property to be on the tax rolls.

Voters in Newberg and the rural district agreed to pay higher taxes as part of their annexations to TVF&R, which has a rate of $2.08 per $1,000 of taxable property value. For the rural district, the former rate was 43.28 cents.

Voters in those areas also agreed to pay a share of previously issued bonds for TVF&R district-wide improvements, so the district-wide rate for bond repayments will drop slightly.

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