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CKFR board drafts 'rumor control document'

"Summer vacations have slowed Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue and Bremerton Fire Department merger discussions, but so far, the districts are still moving forward with the plan.Just because we haven't had a meeting in a month, we're quelling the rumor that the merger is off, CKFR Chief Dick West said.Fire commissioners are trying to quell lots of rumors - nine and counting - with a rumor control document, updated at monthly CKFR Board of Commissioners meetings. Questions and concerns have come from the community and firefighters.The list is intended to provide information to people who miss the meetings and allow the agencies to consistently answer duplicate questions. They have let everybody know up front, said CKFR Battalion Chief Jay Lovato. They'll address every single concern that comes up.The fire commissioners so far have responded to speculation that CKFR is bailing Bremerton out of financial hardship and that a Bremerton station will cease operation after the merger.Both fire stations could operate on their own, as they do now, and CKFR does not have the resources to bail out any organization, the board said. And closing any station would be premature, though a merger would mean personnel and operations changes. Some have expressed concern about fair taxation, since city and county levy rates differ. Money is the concern ... how we're going to efficiently get it, West said.CKFR's levy rate is about a third of Bremerton's, and Bremerton's property taxes provide between 18 and 20 percent of fire department's revenue, West said. The other 80 percent is derived from other taxes, like the liquor tax. But the assessed value of property inside CKFR's boundaries is about three times that of Bremerton.Some firefighters expressed concern about the volunteer program - CKFR has eight all-volunteer stations, while Bremerton employs only career firefighters.Lovato said the number of complex and confusing issues is why the commissioners created the rumor control document. A lot of it is apples and apples, a lot of it is apples and oranges, he said. Fire officials originally set May 25 as a decision-making deadline, though West said the deadline was extended to compensate for summer vacations. The board has yet to receive reports from all the divisions within the fire districts. Though chiefs hoped the merger would be completed in 2000, it likely won't go before voters until November 2001."

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