Proud of public service provided by District 28
December 30, 2011 · 10:59 AM
In reference to the Dec. 16 letter to the editor about the fire department, I can’t help but wonder what outgoing City Councilman (Richard) Elfers’ motivation is for writing this letter. As one of the fire commissioners for the district I am appalled, since he has had all the information available to him.
I have said all along that this fire department is horribly underfunded and it was kept that way for years under management by the city of Enumclaw. Most municipal fire departments spend up to four times as much money as the city was spending for fire protection in 2009. The three full-time firefighters hired at that time was an emergency fix when it was pointed out to council that the citizens had a 20 percent chance of not getting anyone to respond when they dialed 911. That increase finally staffed the headquarters station with two firefighters 24/7. Until then there were times when there was nobody at the station ready to respond. We can only ask so much from our dedicated volunteers. The city never fully funded those positions since they were paid for by the emergency Fund 180.
What happened to the district’s reserves? Well, we have made some capital purchases such as a new aid unit, a sleeping facility at the Cumberland station to house resident firefighters and some is going toward salaries until we can secure funding. Yes Rich, there is a world outside the city limits.
Does the district need more firefighters? Yes. Two firefighters cannot handle concurrent alarms or handle incidents that require more personnel. You talk about getting response times down to acceptable levels. Just because you get some boots at the scene, it doesn’t mean that they are able to mitigate the incident. All this information was provided to you in the study that we jointly paid for. I assumed you read it. I will say it now for all three commissioners, “we told you so.” We didn’t need to pay for a study.
The pay increase for two administrative staff was to compensate them for the increased responsibility and new duties they assumed when the fire district took over the fire department operations. We checked similar job duties with nearby communities in order to determine what would be fair. The firefighter increases were already in place and had been negotiated by the city.
Census is down in the city yet fire responses are on the increase. That information was provided to you in the fire run count provided in your agenda packet before each meeting. I assume you read your packet.
We did purchase property for a new station. $1.5 million as you suggest does not cover the cost of a new building. We simply purchased property for the future. Property costs are down and purchasing property at this time seemed to be the frugal thing to do. We have already outgrown the “old fire station” years ago but we currently do not have any immediate plans for a construction project.
Finally, how does increasing the fire tax rate mean less money for the city? As a city councilman you proposed not reducing the tax to the citizens of the city. The council decided this one time not to keep the surplus tax. A future adjustment to the fire levy rate does not impact the city. I thought you knew that. The citizens overwhelmingly approved the annexation. The fire district does not have to compete with police, streets and parks for money anymore. Tax revenue for fire is dedicated for fire and the citizens decide what level of service they want instead of the City Council. Citizens can be assured that the fire district is focused on continuing to provide the best fire service on the Plateau. We have accomplished a lot in the last year since we took over the operation of the fire department and I am proud of our volunteer, resident, administrative and career staff because they are the ones who make it all happen.