The Journal’s View: Airway Heights’ voters should support fire station plan, library
~July 20th, 2023
The city of Airway Heights is taking a practical approach to addressing its growing pains, one that should be palatable to property owners within the city.
Voters should approve the two measures on the Aug. 1 primary-election ballot that they were due to receive within the past week, and enable Airway Heights to catch up, to a degree, with the growth it has experienced in recent years.
The city west of Spokane has ballooned to nearly 11,300 residents, according to the most recent estimates from the Washington state Office of Financial Management. That’s up 42% over the past decade and dwarfs the 4,500-person population at the beginning of the century. It makes sense that the city would need to adjust for growth in demand for services.
In the first ballot measure, the city is asking its citizens to annex the Spokane County Library District in order to keep the Airway Heights branch open. Just under a quarter of the city’s current tax levy goes to the library services now.
With annexation, residents essentially would be approving a new levy that would go directly to the library district. Airway Heights leaders say they then would use the tax money that goes toward library services to fund additional firefighter positions, a need in a community that, according to city data, has experienced a 172% increase in emergency calls over the past decade.
Arguably more pressing, the city is seeking approval of a bond that would fund renovation of a building along south Garfield Avenue to include a fire station. City leaders paint a grim picture of the current conditions under which the city’s firefighters work: The current station, which reportedly was built in 1968, lacks basic heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning in most areas, and doesn’t have adequate showers and decontamination areas.
Also, the bays at the existing stations aren’t large enough to house modern equipment. Clearly, updated facilities are a necessity.
A successful fire station bond could be leveraged by the city to secure $1.3 million in state grant money, making taxpayer money go further. Also, the city plans to sell a building to help in funding the new project.
If approved, the measures would be staggered by a year, with the tax increase for the fire station kicking in next year and the library district change occurring in 2025.
All told, the owner of a home valued at $300,000 would experience a $213 tax increase once both measures kicked in. That equates to just under $18 a month.
We realize fully that any tax hikes have the potential to place additional burden on working families and small businesses, but the upgrades proposed by the city appear to have been needed for a while. It’s a good time for Airway Heights residents to help move the city forward.