Ted DeVol’s letter in the Aug. 23 issue of this paper is interesting. He states the King County Fire District 28 commissioners passed a resolution at their meeting of Aug. 5 to put before the voters a proposal to increase the levy lid. He stated there had never been any discussion amongst the commissioners regarding this matter. He also states he will not vote for it.
Mr. Devol did not explain that the issue had been on the commissioners’ agenda 12 times since January 2011; this includes the reason for increasing the levy lid (source: KCFD 28 Commissioners meeting minutes). Mr. DeVol and his associates Mr. Mike Qualls and Ms. Angela Stubblefield have through 28 public records requests obtained the same financial data the commissioners used to make the decision to put the issue to the voters. The data shows that without an increase in funding, the fire district will have to reduce its level of service to the citizens of the district.
A fatal 2008 house fire initiated the process to increase the number of Enumclaw firefighters. This incident was initially responded to with two firefighters, with a several minute delay in additional firefighters arriving. Washington state law requires four firefighters to be on scene before entering a burning structure. The delay in getting additional staff on scene delayed entry into the burning home and possibly the saving of a life. With the help of a federal SAFER grant and available district funds, six additional firefighters have since been employed. The district now provides a four-person response 24/7. Hopefully this will prevent future loss of life.
Mr. Devol and Mr. Qualls and Ms. Angela Stubblefield have commented more than once in commissioner meetings that the use of the SAFER grant was irresponsible, as the district could not meet the obligations of the grants. The district will meet the SAFER grant obligations. However, a reduction in service can be expected as non-SAFER related positions will be adversely affected. If we go back to the less than four firefighters on the initial attack, whose property or loved one will perish? Thus, Mr. Devol’s and Angela Stubblefield “no vote” is surprising.
What also is not being said is that fire and emergency medical service operations under the city of Enumclaw, and after annexation in 2010, have been subsidized beyond the annual levy income. The city of Enumclaw on more than one occasion used general funds to cover fire and EMS needs beyond the $.50 fire levy the city collected. Upon annexation, the district has used surplus funds (accrued prior to annexation) to cover operating costs above the authorized levy of $1.20/$1,000 assessed valuation.
In short, it is the old axiom: pay me now or pay me later. Pay to continue the level of service or pay higher property insurance premiums resulting from lower levels of service, along with higher risk to life and property.
This shows a need to vote “yes” for King County District 28 levy and vote for Elbert Reed for commissioner to keep emergency services coming.