Report follows meeting with fire commissioners
January 17, 2012 · Updated 11:10 AM
After attending the Fire District 28 monthly meeting on Jan. 3, 2012, at 10 a.m., I have a few things to report. First I would like to thank the fire chief and the fire commissioners for allowing some Q&A that lasted over one hour.
One of the questions I had was, why do we need a new fire station? A very nice young fireman made a comment stating that he had to sleep on the floor occasionally. I directed my next question to the fire chief and asked how many firefighters we have on the night crew? His answer was six. My next question was how many beds do we have? Chief said eight. If my math is correct, we should have two extra beds. Now, I don’t know how long a shift is, but I thought we hired a full-time night shift, I understand a volunteer needs to sleep at night, but why does a full-time paid person need to sleep all night? Do they work 24-hour shifts?
The next comment was we need more room to store training props and gear. Can’t we build a small shed at the current location? Your current building only costs taxpayers $100 per month. Do we need to spend millions on a new station? Those were the only reasons I heard why we need a new station. I’m sure there are others.
Next question was directed at comments made by Commissioner Chris Ingham in his letter to The Courier Herald on Dec. 28, 2001. He states most municipal fire departments spend up to four times as much money as Enumclaw was spending for fire protection in 2009. I asked Chris if he could tell me the names of these fire departments. The first town he came up with was Tacoma! I was surprised to be compared with such a large city but that’s OK, let’s check the facts. First, I was told by the city of Enumclaw a week ago they were collecting 89 cents per thousand for fire protection. Four times that would be $3.56
I then made a few calls to Tacoma. Residences pay around $1.32 per $1,000 in property tax for fire and rescue. Not easy to break it down but with a little help from a nice gal who works for Tacoma it looks like this: 50 cents for EMS, 22 cents for fire pension and 60 cents for salary, total of $1.32, not $3.56 for fire and EMS in Tacoma.
Chris, can you help me out here? Sounds to me like you are blowing smoke at us taxpayers.
Now that Enumclaw and the district have joined forces, city folks get to pay what the district folks were paying, or $1.10 per $1,000. No public votes required to raise this tax, you folks voted for the new district, remember? You now pay 23 percent more then you did when the city ran the fire department. Wait! It gets better; the district wants to raise your taxes to $1.50 or 70 percent more than you were paying to the city. Are you seeing red yet?
I also asked how much money the district had when they joined forces with the city fire department; a little over $2 million was the answer. I asked the commissioners how a district could accumulate such a large war chest. Did they overcharge the taxpayers? Of course not, we collected that over many years. And just one year later that fund is now $900,000. They just spent $500,000 on the new property for the new station and the fire chief said he would write a letter to the public and explain where the rest of the money has gone and why he feels we need a new station.
I’m not sure the new station was the chief’s idea. The meeting with the chief and the commissioners looks like the commissioners are calling all the shots.
I next made a few comments about the $50,000 Fire Protection Master Plan paid for by us taxpayers in 2008. On Page 2 of section 1, “We conclude from the EFD/KCFD28 baseline evaluation the fire department operation is well equipped and operating fairly efficiently. A qualified, capable, and engaged cadre of dedicated career and volunteer emergency workers provide excellent fire and emergency medical service within the limits of available resources. However, it was evident in most venues of the evaluation that the fire department has significant gaps in administrative, leadership, and policy and procedural matters.”
I was immediately reminded we were without a chief at that time.
OK, that could explain the leadership problem, but the report didn’t mention any problems with the operation of fire department. You can read the 300-page document on the fire department’s website if you wish. I will spare you with my opinion for now. Stay tuned