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Silver Reef Hotel and Casino exterior (March 20, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

UPDATED: Fire Chief: Silver Reef complex could be left with no fire protection over past-due bill

FERNDALE, Wash. — Whatcom County Fire District 7 Fire Chief Larry Hoffman, with the support of the District’s Commissioners, sent a letter to the Lummi Indian Business Council advising that in the absence of payment by April 30th to cover the annual fee charged for providing services to the Silver Reef Casino Resort, those services will cease.

According to the letter obtain by My Ferndale News via a public records request, WCFD7 has been providing fire protection and emergency medical services (EMS) to the casino complex and in the past, since the property is exempt from paying property taxes, Lummi Nation paid WCFD7 an annual fee. Hoffman described the fee as “not an exact equivalent payment” but that it “satisfies the requirement of Washington law concerning receipt of value for services provided, is fair to the taxpayers in the District, and is fair to the Lummi Nation.”

Hoffman noted in the letter that the 2018 payment, invoiced in February, did not arrive until September and the 2019 payment, also invoiced in February has not arrived. The overdue amount according to the letter is $149,243.97.

Hoffman says that unless the 2019 payment is received by April 30th, all but EMS services would cease being responded to at the casino properties.

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… without payment, the District is unable to provide structural firefighting services. Simply stated, the District is not allowed to have its taxpayers subsidize the Casino. I do want to make clear that the District will always respond to emergency medical services calls and to fire calls as may be necessary to protect life.

Whatcom County Fire District 7 Fire Chief Larry Hoffman in a letter to Lummi Nation (March 13, 2020).

The Silver Reef Casino Resort is temporarily closed in an effort to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus during the current pandemic.

Lummi Nation officials did not respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE (7:15pm 3/20/2020) : My Ferndale News received the following press release from Chief Hoffman at 7pm today. When asked, he said he had been contacted by an official from the Lummi Nation shortly after 6pm.

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Whatcom Count Fire District No. 7 has been in contact with representatives from the Lummi Nation and the issue has been resolved.

Chief Hoffman said, “I would like to thank the Lummi Nation for their prompt response to this issue and look forward to working with them on not only the fee structure, but how Fire District 7 can better serve the Casino and its patrons.”

“The District looks forward to working with the Lummi Nation toward better communication and a more formal working agreement so that future problems can be avoided.”

Press Release from Whatcom County Fire District 7 Fire Chief Larry Hoffman (March 20, 2020).

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