Malden given cash, volunteer help to rebuild

Schoesler

Malden on Tuesday received $20,000 for its fire department and Sen. Mark Schoesler introduced a bill to provide property tax relief to its residents rebuilding their homes that were destroyed by September’s devastating wildfire.

The Washington Fire Chiefs Association presented Malden with the $20,000 check, a gesture that town councilor and firefighter Scott Hokonson called “very generous and very thoughtful.”

Hokonson said the money comes with no strings attached, so the town could spend it on whatever it needs, which could include firefighting supplies, personal protective equipment or anything else that was lost in the fire.

Hokonson, who is also the director of the Pine Creek Community Long Term Recovery Organization, said the town first must decide where to start.

“The biggest need is to assess what is the best way to rebuild,” he said.

Residents who are working to rebuild their homes may be able to get property tax relief if Senate Bill 5454 is passed.

Under the bill introduced by Schoesler, residents who lost a home to wildfire between Sept. 1-19 would be exempt from paying property taxes on the full value of the original structure for three years if the home is being rebuilt or physically improved. Schoesler announced the bill in a Tuesday news release.

More than 80 percent of structures in Malden and Pine City were destroyed in the fire.

SB 5454 has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Some work to rebuild homes has already begun thanks to a partnership that includes Amish and Mennonite communities from Montana.

The Amish and Mennonite groups have traveled to Malden after volunteering to help rebuild two homes that were lost in the fire. Hokonson said they broke ground on the projects Monday.

Hokonson said the LTRO has rented homes for the volunteers to stay. The Catholic Diocese of Spokane and the Innovia Foundation have donated money to pay for expenses, including building permits.

“We are so incredibly grateful for this project and others like it,” he said.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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