OLYMPIA — Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman and Arlington City Council member Jesica Stickles visited the state capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 11, to help make state legislators more aware of safety and transportation issues affecting the local area.
Stedman and Stickles traveled to Olympia as part of the Washington Fire Chiefs and Washington Fire Commissioners Association Legislative Day, which typically takes place early on in the legislative session.
“Since Jesica is the city’s newest public safety liaison, it was great that she was able to take the time to be part of this,” Stedman said. “We had a large contingent of firefighting personnel from Snohomish County, and North County in particular.”
Stedman and Stickles met with state Sen. Kirk Pearson, and state representatives Elizabeth Scott and Dan Kristiansen, not only to discuss funding and training for fire safety, but also to advocate the widening of 172nd Street for public safety reasons.
“There’s somewhere between 30-40 bills related to fire safety working their way through the legislature right now,” said Stedman, who noted that one of his concerns was the clarification of state funding for the mobilization of emergency resources. “The way it’s worked has been, if fire service agencies from here were sent out to, say, eastern Washington, they would be reimbursed. Recently, though, the language has limited that reimbursement to refer only to fire emergencies, whereas our position is that it should apply to all risk situations, such as responding to an earthquake in Seattle.”
Although Stedman and Stickles spent far less time addressing 172nd Street than they did the fire safety bills being considered by the legislature, Stedman still emphasized to the legislators that 172nd Street’s status as a primary transportation access not only affects emergency response times during traffic slowdowns, but could also hinder disaster relief efforts.
“During a disaster, there’s a good chance that portions of the freeway would become unusable, which would direct traffic over to Highway 9,” Stedman said. “The airport would also likely be a big player in disaster recovery, and in both cases, that access from 172nd Street becomes vital.”
Although Stedman declined to speculate on how many of his suggestions the legislators will ultimately take onboard, he and Stickles expressed optimism that they’d made a positive difference simply by being there.
“Presenting your case in person makes a much bigger impact than sending an email,” Stickles said. “The legislators didn’t want to give us yes or no answers, because they wanted to read the full bills before making up their minds, but by pointing out the priorities that we believe are important, we’ve put those concerns on their radar. I’d really recommend to other cities’ public safety liaisons that they make these trips to Olympia too.”