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King County Fire Commission 28 debate: Part II | Angela Stubblefield and Elbert Reed
Editor’s Note: Angela Stubblefield and Elbert Reed are running for Fire District 28 Commissioner Position No. 2. The two candidates agreed to a debate. This is the second week and includes responses to the second editorial question and rebuttal statements to the first question answered by the candidates last week – Question No 1: Do you support or not support Proposition No. 1 authorizing an increase of previous property tax levies?
• Describe what you believe the duties and responsibilities are of the fire commission.
Stubblefield: A fire commissioner’s primary duty is to provide an efficient and well-managed fire district that will protect and serve the public. A commissioner’s duty is to champion the taxpayer perspective, managing the district with that priority in mind. There needs to be a clearly defined budget with reserves set aside for emergencies (which do not exist at this point), a clear long-term plan to set procedures to deal with labor relations (none exists).
It’s a commissioner’s duty to create and set policy so that the fire chief has clear direction as to the commissioners’ expectations. Procedures should be set in writing for every major issue that comes before the chief. Personnel issues should have clear procedures to ensure high morale and efficient management.
Since the district commissioners serve the public, meetings should be set at times where input can be received (currently meetings are in the mornings when most of the public cannot attend). Those public meetings should be run professionally, following Robert’s Rules of Order. It is the duty of the fire commissioners to deal with the public respectfully and in an orderly fashion. This has not been done.
Reed: The commissioners establish policies and operational procedures to protect the tax payer’s life and property and to prudently manage district funds. They then monitor those policies and procedures for compliance and take corrective action as needed. More specifically they:
• Serve as the governing body of the fire protection district.
• Develop policies and guidelines to ensure effective and efficient operations.
• Ensure the district provides needed fire protection and emergency medical services (EMS) at the level that citizens support with taxation.
• Ensure financial integrity of the district and compliance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations.
• Manage key district positions (chief and administrative staff).
• Develop strategic plans for the operation of the district and all fire protection and EMS resources.
• Keep residents/voters apprised of ongoing issues and solicit their input on resolution of those issues.
• Provide transparency to voters into the workings of the district.
The following are rebuttals to the question last week: Do you support or not support Proposition No. 1 authorizing an increase of previous property tax levies?
Elbert Reed rebuttal:
My opponent seems focused on the perceived errors of the ghosts of commissioners past, rather than what she will do in the future. Mistakes have been made and acknowledged. However, the Board of Fire Commissioners as of January 1, 2014 will retain only one of the sitting commissioners. Most troubling are the errors and omissions in my opponents’ narrative.
• Purchase of fire station site: The $80,000 assessed value is based on previous county zoning. The assessor’s office is currently revising the assessed value based on city zoning. The hazardous waste site is not on the fire district parcel. A sewage lift station must be built to support any development in the newly annexed area.
• Overtime pay: Not the stated $250,000 but actually $231,000. Of which $97,255 was reimbursed, resulting in $133,745 paid from district funds.
• Cumberland Station upgrade: The purchase price of the modular unit reflected comparable value for like units in the area. Comparable units are not available for $15,000. Further, neighboring KCFD 44 completed a similar project in 2004 at a reported cost of $510,000 vs. the cost of this project of around $300,000.
• Firefighter pay increases: Interesting comments from a person who is currently a fire fighter in KCFD 44, and a building rep for the teachers union where she is employed. According to a study done by Kline & Associates, Enumclaw fire fighters wages are significantly below other comparable fire departments. The contract signed in 2012 provided for a 2 percent COLA raise, which was less than the CPI indicator of 3.7 percent.
My opponent and her associates have requested and received over 25 requests for public documents from KCFD 28. Why was the correct data and full story not provided?
Stubblefield Rebuttal: The taxpayer is clearly absent in Mr. Reed’s representation of KCFD 28 – please reread last week’s article and witness the absence of taxpayer.
Mr. Reed implies a minimum staffing of four firefighters occurred after 2011; presumably, from the SAFER grant – this is erroneous. Under Mayor Reynolds, district staffing was at a minimum of four personnel per shift. Mr. Reed states, “The current increased response level provides for a minimum of four firefighters responding 24 hours a day.” I am wondering if district citizens living outside the city feel “improved level of response.”
Six firefighters respond each night from the main station. To improve level of response, split the six into three groups – three stations could be staffed 24 hours a day.
Rapidly depleted funds from Fire District 28 was a result of taxpayer money spent on a commissioner’s modular, salaries, pay increases and property. None of these resulted in better service for citizens. The SAFER grant while employing four additional firefighters has encumbered the district to pay for personnel we cannot afford. When the district can deploy firefighters on voluntary wildland calls and still maintain minimum staffing levels, there appears the district has a firefighter surplus not shortage.