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Originally published Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 8:44 PM

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Kirkland agrees to compromise on putting Medic One levy on ballot

A compromise reached Wednesday has ended fears that Kirkland would veto King County’s emergency-services levy renewal.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A standoff over whether Kirkland can become a Medic One provider ended Wednesday with a compromise that dispelled fears the city would veto a six-year extension of King County’s acclaimed lifesaving program.

Kirkland, one of nine cities with veto power over putting renewal of the emergency-services levy on the ballot, wielded that power in its lengthy battle for a path to become a regional paramedic provider.

The agreement, unanimously approved Wednesday by the King County Regional Policy Committee, calls for an independent study of how many Medic One providers there should be and whether Kirkland could become one.

Regional Policy Committee members are elected officials from Seattle, King County and suburban cities. More than two dozen paramedics and firefighters in uniform were on hand to urge adoption of a 2014-19 Medic One strategic plan, which contains the compromise language.

The compromise satisfies Kirkland, which voted last year against the strategic plan, and which had withheld its support for putting levy renewal on the November ballot.

Since growing into a city of 81,000 after a large annexation in 2011, Kirkland has chafed at depending on a Redmond-run Medic One unit based at EvergreenHealth Medical Center, which is in Kirkland and serves mostly Kirkland residents.

Without its own paramedic unit, Kirkland officials said, firefighters who want to become paramedics have to leave the city and work for a Medic One provider elsewhere.

King County and Redmond rejected a request by Kirkland to take over the Evergreen operation, saying it’s more efficient for Redmond to continue to operate three paramedic units than for Kirkland to run a single one.

Wednesday’s compromise “creates a pathway for Kirkland to be considered for an advanced life-support system provider in the next levy [after 2019]. That’s what we were looking for,” Kirkland City Councilmember Dave Asher said after the vote.

“I think we have peace in our time,” said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Jane Hague, who was a key negotiator of the compromise.

“My big issue is making sure that we have the best response time, the best system, at a cost that’s affordable throughout King County,” Hague said.

Levy renewal, which still must be approved by the County Council before it goes to voters, would cost the average homeowner $107 a year — slightly less than in 2008, before property values dropped.

Under state law, every city with a population of more than 50,000 must agree to put a countywide emergency-services levy on the ballot.

Kirkland, by flexing the muscle resulting from its new veto power over the levy, sparked fears among other jurisdictions and firefighters that it might veto the levy and throw the Medic One system into chaos.

After firefighters’ unions in Kirkland and four neighboring cities blasted what they called Kirkland’s “unsettling money grab” and asked the city to endorse the levy, City Manager Kurt Triplett responded that Kirkland doesn’t intend to raise system costs and is only asking to become a provider during the 2020-25 levy period.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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