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Fire – city land deal taken off the table

SNOHOMISH — The real estate contract between the city and Fire District 4 over three properties is canceled.
The fire district and city were originally considering a land swap but the district pivoted this summer with a proposal to buy all three properties.
A new contract could materialize from future negotiations, but those will not begin until the fire district is firm on the details it will present to the city.
City administrator Steve Schuller said Fire District 4 is next to act in any new negotiations: “It’s in their court.”
The three properties are the fire station at Maple Avenue, the fire district headquarters on Avenue D and the site for the food bank. Currently the city and fire district co-own each property 50-50.
Officials from the city and the fire district say there is not yet a plan in place to resume negotiations, and the two parties will begin discussions after Fire District 4 regroups.
Fire Chief Ron Simmons said the fire commission needs to determine dollar amounts on both land ownership and services to return to talks with the city. Once that begins the city may decline their offer, he said, and negotiations will continue.
“We are letting the dust settle on this for a couple of weeks before we start the conversation all over again,” Simmons said. “The commissioners and I have not come to agreement on exactly how we will re-enter this conversation.”
Simmons said the real estate agreement was canceled due to “what has occurred regarding the commissioner’s election.” When asked for clarification on the election issues that drove the cancellation, he said, “the Facebook posts, and all of the outrage” that followed.
A video put forward in August on the “Evan Merritt for Fire Commissioners” Facebook page claimed the Maple Avenue station is closing, and discussion rippled from that post. The fire department has stood firm that the station’s not closing.
Concerns from the firefighter’s union that the station will close can be traced back to the start of the real estate negotiations a year and a half ago, and are mentioned in newspaper reports from 2004 as well.
The most recent concerns were based on language inside the now-dead contract that Maple Avenue station no longer “served (the fire district’s) needs.” The post and its related Tweets set off fire district watchdogs and the firefighter’s union.
Sept. 19 was the end date for a real estate due-diligence period between the city and fire district in the prior contract. It was interpreted as a deadline by firefighters to fight to keep the Maple Avenue stations open and staffed.
Both the Avenue D headquarters and Maple Avenue station are in need of repairs which officials have said will not be planned until the real estate ownership status is complete.
“It is still important to us to resolve this issue and get out from under the 2004 agreement in order to plan for the future of the district,” Simmons said.
Property discussions are often made behind closed doors at public meetings in what are called “executive sessions,” which are closed
to the public. State law allows it.
The closed-door meetings are intended for the public’s benefit, because a public entity is negotiating on a property, to avoid having the purchase price influenced by becoming public knowledge.
The law is RCW 42.30.110.



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