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Future of West Sound Fire & Rescue on hold

The West Sound Fire & Rescue (WSFR) planning committee decided to "call time out" on the plan to consolidate three Kitsap County fire agencies, according to Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke.

The WSFR planning committee decided to delay the plan to merge Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR), Bremerton Fire Department and South Kitsap Fire & Rescue (SKFR) at its April 21 meeting due to the current ups and downs of the economy.

As a result, the public vote to merge the fire agencies, originally slated for November, will happen at a later date.

Duke said a number of factors played a role in the committee's decision, but finances was key. CKFR and SKFR depend on property taxes for funding and he said assessed property values continue to fall, making the financial aspect of merging the three fire agencies difficult to navigate.

"We want to have accurate numbers before going to the public," Duke said.

CKFR Chief Ken Burdette said the committee did not think it could pull together all of the necessary information in time for this November's election and they would rather postpone the election than misinform the public.

"And we didn't think we could get it together in time to get before the public," Burdette said. "We want to make sure we do it correctly."

Duke said aside from finances, the WSFR steering and planning committees will take a closer look at the potential organization's leadership and structure.

"Finance is a huge, complex area because assessed property values are going down and the next one will be how the department's going to look," Duke said.

He added the WSFR steering committee will recommend an updated timeline as to when to bring the proposed merger before the public at the planning committee's May 19 meeting in Bremerton.

"We haven't stopped. Our goal is to still put this together, but to step back and do it right," Burdette said. "We want to make sure we do this right for the community members."

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