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AGLO 1975 No. 33 - March 19, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES ‑- CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- AUTHORITY OF COUNTY TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO THE CITY FIRE SERVICE

RCW 36.32.470 authorizes a county under certain stated circumstances to provide financial assistance, without consideration, to a city located within the county for the purpose of improving its municipal water system in order to improve the fire fighting capability of the city.

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                                                                  March 19, 1975

Honorable Guy M. Glenn
Prosecuting Attorney
Pacific County
P.O. Box 343
South Bend, Washington 98586                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 33

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does RCW 36.32.470 authorize a conty to provide financial assistance, without consideration, to a city located within the county for the purpose of improving its municipal water system in order to improve the fire fighting capability of the city?

            We answer this question in the affirmative subject to the qualification set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In submitting the above question, you have outlined the following factual background with respect thereto:

            ". . .  The Willapa Harbor Hospital is located in the City of South Bend on a Hill behind the city.  Due to the elevation of the hospital, the City's water system does not provide enough pressure to operate the Hospital's already installed fire protection sprinkler system.  The hospital is operated by a hospital district which encompasses the entire county.  The proposed solution to this problem is to errect [sic] a standpipe behind the hospital so that adequate pressure will be maintained for fire protection for the hospital.  Of course, the implementation of this system will upgrade the entire city's water system."

            The statute to which you have referred, RCW 36.32.470, codifies the recently enacted provisions of § 1, chapter 51, Laws of 1974, Ex. Sess.  The full text of this law reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "The legislative authority of any county shall have the power to furnish, upon such terms as the board may deem proper, with or without consideration, financial or other assistance to any municipal corporation, or political subdivision within such county for the purpose of implementing the fire protection, ambulance, medical or other emergency services provided by such municipal corporation, or political subdivision:  Provided, That no such municipal corporation or political subdivision shall be authorized to expend any funds or property received as part of such assistance for any purpose, or in any manner, for which it could not otherwise legally expend its own funds."

            We have paraphrased your question to refer to the transfer of county funds to the city as a "donation without consideration" for purposes of bringing your question squarely within the express legislative language.  It is, of course, well-established law in this state, since Rands v. Clarke County, 79 Wash. 152, 139 Pac. 1090 (1914), that the limitations imposed by Article VIII, § 7, Washington Constitution1/ upon the expenditure of municipal funds donot apply to intermunicipal transfers of such funds.  Cf., AGO 1970 No. 24 [[to David G. Sprague and George Fleming, State Representatives on November 5, 1970]], copy enclosed.  All that is required is that there be a sufficient grant of authority from the state legislature to make the intergovernmental transfer in question. Rands v. Clarke County, supra, at 157-158; State ex rel. Potter v. King County, 45 Wash. 519, 525-526, 88 Pac. 935 (1907).  It is patent from RCW 36.32.470 that it authorizes a county to transfer county funds, with or without consideration, for the purposes therein enumerated, thus constituting precisely the type of legislative grant of authority which was held to be present inRands and absent in Potter.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]   The only limitations upon the authority of a county to make such a financial contribution to a city or other municipal corporation relate to the purposes to which the recipient municipality may apply the funds so given to it.  First, the funds may only be used ". . . for the purpose of implementing the fire protection, ambulance, medical or other emergency services provided by such [city] . . ."; and secondly, the funds so received may not be expended for any purpose, or in any manner, for which the receiving municipality could not otherwise legally expend its own funds.

            Clearly, the improvement of a city owned and operated water system such as is described in your letter would constitute a legitimate objective for a use of the city's own funds ‑ and hence, the second of these two requirements would clearly be met in the situation you have described.  A somewhat more difficult question, however, is raised in connection with the first limitation of the statute.  Simply stated, the improvement of a municipal water system is not one of the purposes for a county donation which is listed in the statute.  On the other hand, implementation of fire protectionis.

            If, in order to enable a city to have an adequate system of fire protection for all property situated within its limits it is demonstrably necessary for certain improvements in its water system to be made, it therefore would appear to us that the provisions of RCW 36.32.470, supra, may be utilized by the county in which the city in question is situated.  But on the other hand, if this clear factual relationship cannot be shown, a contrary conclusion would have to be reached.

            Subject to this qualification, it is thus our opinion that your question, as above paraphrased, may be answered in the affirmative; and under the facts which you have described in your letter, as above summarized, it would also be our opinion that the requisite relationship between an adequate fire fighting system and an improved municipal water system can be said to exist in the case you have described.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

DONALD FOSS, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/"No county, city, town or other municipal corporation shall hereafter give any money, or property, or loan its money, or credit to or in aid of any individual, association, company or corporation, except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm, or become directly or indirectly the owner of any stock in or bonds of any association, company or corporation."

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