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Enumclaw and Fire District 28 reach agreement
By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald
The city of Enumclaw and Fire District 28 have hammered out an agreement that will maintain a mutually-beneficial working relationship for the foreseeable future.
The two sides have not always seen eye-to-eye in recent years and the tension brought rumors of a split between the two entities or a possible move toward a merger with neighboring Fire Protection District 44.
But that’s now in the past, according to City Administrator Mark Bauer. “The relationship is good,” he said. “We’ve had some issues over the years, but we’re on good ground today.”
Specifically addressing the decision to walk away from a merger with District 44, Bauer said, “We decided we needed to slow down and take care of some things internally.”
The new interlocal agreement between the city and District 28 is identical in some key respects to the pact that has been in effect - primarily, that the city provides services and the district pays half the costs.
But the agreement contains important language reflecting some “performance goals” outlined in a 2008 Fire Master Plan that was jointly commissioned by the city and the district.
Namely, the new agreement spells out that the two sides will work toward meeting certain response times for emergencies. Those times are six minutes in the city, eight minutes in most of the rural area and 11 minutes in the Cumberland area, where District 28 maintains a station staffed by volunteers.
Additionally, the contract notes that the city should work toward staffing levels that would have professional firefighters on duty at all times. Presently, career firefighters are available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and volunteers staff stations beginning at 9 p.m., creating a three-hour gap where there are only volunteers and they respond directly from home.
“That creates some slower response times,” Bauer noted.
Having career firefighters on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week will have a financial impact, something that will have to be worked out between the two parties.
Finally, the new pact calls for the establishment of an Oversight Board, consisting of two members of the Enumclaw City Council and two members of the Fire District 28 board of commissioners.
One of the first items on the board’s agenda will be to address the issue of a permanent fire chief. Presently, Doug Dawson is filling the role on an interim basis; prior to his arrival Enumclaw Police Chief Jim Zoll had headed both departments, a move the city made following the retirement of Fire Chief Joe Kolisch.
The Oversight Board will also tackle the issue of funding additional career firefighters, necessary to meet the outlined performance goals.
The fire operation currently consists of Dawson, six career firefighters, about 30 volunteers and two staff people (one full-time and one part-time).