Ballots for special election due Tuesday

MONTESANO — Ballots for a school levy in Satsop, a new elementary school at Ocosta and to determine the future of ambulance service in rural McCleary must be put in the mail or dropped off by Tuesday, April 23.

As of Thursday afternoon, only about 1,360 of the 3,800 combined ballots from all three elections have been turned in. Auditor Vern Spatz said they don’t yet know how many ballots have been turned in from each election.

Important to note is that due to budget reasons, the county is not opening up its typical drop-off locations at the McCleary VFW or Westport City Hall. That means the only way to drop the ballots off would be to go to the Auditor’s Office in Montesano or get the ballot postmarked by Tuesday. Most post offices close at 5 p.m.

In all, the county mailed out 899 ballots to voters in Fire District 12, which consists of rural McCleary; 320 to voters in the Satsop School District and 2,627 to voters in the Ocosta School District on the South Beach.

The Satsop School District wants to replace an expiring property tax levy to support educational programs, student services, textbooks, maintenance, repair and operations. The levy is designed to raise $80,000 each year for 2014 and 2015. That works out to $2.02 per $1,000 in assessed value. That means a $100,000 home would pay $202 a year.

The Ocosta School District is seeking a bond valued a $13.8 million to be paid back over the next 20 years. The district is hoping to raise enough money to build a new building for its elementary school.

The district’s elementary school, or “round” building, was determined to have the highest need for replacement after a March 2008 survey of district buildings found the grade school — built in 1967 — to be “past the point of repair. “

The new structure will also act as a tsunami refuge for the public. District officials say the campus is positioned in a more central and slightly higher elevation than other options. Currently, no other Westport structure can be used as a temporary tsunami refuge or shelter. The building will be built with seismic enhancements, strengthened foundation and framing, and second floor and rooftop access in case of emergency.

Voters turned down a couple of earlier options. This one is $10.5 million less than the first of two previously voted on proposals on the matter in 2009.

Fire District 12 is trying one more time to get the funds necessary to provide ambulance service for the region. Without it, there remains a question as to what would happen if someone calls 911 in a medical emergency and who would actually respond.

The requested levy is for 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That means a home owner with a $100,000 home would pay $50 per year or $4.17 per month.

As of May 1, without levy approval, the areas surrounding McCleary will lose ambulance service.

Proponent Chris Crew said he and about a dozen others have been actively doorbelling across the community and have been trying to get supporters to turn out to vote for the measure.

Crew says the levy needs 60 percent of the total vote and a minimum of 268 voters must cast ballots. The last levy failed by 29 votes, he notes. “Every vote matters here and we’re trying our best to make a difference,” he said.