Saturday will mark an event four years in the making. But for the most part, nobody will even notice. Mountlake Terrace and Brier council members and Snohomish County Fire District...

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Saturday will mark an event four years in the making. But for the most part, nobody will even notice.

Mountlake Terrace and Brier council members and Snohomish County Fire District 1 commissioners last week approved 20-year contracts that formally ended the 48-year existence of the Mountlake Terrace Fire Department.

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In reality, Fire District 1 has operated fire and ambulance services for both cities for nearly four years under a transitional agreement. The biggest difference, effective in the new year, will be the transfer of 27 employees from Mountlake Terrace’s payroll to the district’s.

The Mountlake Terrace department for years has provided fire and medical-emergency services for Brier. When Mountlake Terrace decided to cease operating an independent fire department, both cities chose to contract with Fire District 1.

The district already serves more than 150,000 residents in unincorporated South Snohomish County communities between South Everett and Bothell, including Martha Lake, Silver Firs and Picnic Point. The district is funded with a yearly property tax of about $2 per $1,000 assessed valuation. That’s about $500 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home.

Because the two cities chose to contract with the district rather than become part of it, the cities’ residents will not pay the district’s property tax or have representatives on the district’s elected five-member board.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council voted Dec. 20 to approve a 20-year contract with the district. In the first year, the city will pay about $1.76 million, acting City Manager Scott Hugill said. The city expects to save $700,000 a year by giving up its fire department, he said.

The Brier City Council approved a similar contract Dec. 21, with a $695,000 first-year cost, Mayor Gary Starks said.

District commissioners approved both contracts Dec. 21.

The Mountlake Terrace agreement is more complex than Brier’s, covering the transfer of 24 firefighters and three administrative-staff members. It also requires the city to replace or renovate a fire station near City Hall by the end of March 2006.

The 1961 station isn’t earthquake-safe and lacks key safety features. Firefighters now sleep in an adjacent trailer.

“The facility is substandard and disrespectful to our employees that have to be stationed there,” district Commissioner Larry Hadland said.

The Mountlake Terrace council voted Dec. 6 to seek construction bids on a new station, expected to cost about $2.5 million, including planning work. The council is divided on whether to build a station or renovate the existing one and plans to make a final decision after bids come in late next month.

The district will assume ownership of Mountlake Terrace’s second fire station — Station 18, on 228th Street Southwest on the edge of Brier. The district plans to build a station near the junction of Poplar and Larch ways, allowing it to close Station 18 and the district’s Hilltop station northeast of Brier.

Starks said residents probably won’t notice any difference after the new contracts go into effect.

“When people call 911 and they need emergency medical services, they don’t ask are you from Terrace or the district,” the Brier mayor said. “They are just glad the people are there.”

Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or dbrooks@seattletimes.com