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Economic summit work underway at CK Fire
An ad-hoc group that was formed to look at the economic issues facing the Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue District met this month, according to district officials. But the meeting and the results were not made public.
In fact, requests to find out who is serving on the committee, how they were chosen and what the group’s goals are, were turned down.
According to Ileana LiMarzi, public information officer for CKFR, the group has met once and plans another meeting for early March.
“We met for an initial meeting and had a diverse group of internal stakeholders,” LiMarzi wrote in an email message. “The group agreed that CKFR is facing an economic crisis, current trends are not sustainable and we will need to find ways to work together to solve it.”
She said the group has no citizens or residents in attendance.
“Much like a staff meeting, the meetings of this group are kept private,” she said. “Once the group has suggestions on how to better our current economic situation, a presentation will be made to the board of commissioners for consideration.”
The group came about as a suggestion by the district’s administration after there were communication problems between firefighters, administrators and fire district commissioners.
At issue was a move by Fire Chief Scott Weninger to reduce the minimum number of firefighter/EMTs on each shift from 19 to 17. The district currently has enough firefighters to staff 25 per shift, for three shifts each day. But often times, when some are out sick, on vacation, or at required training and education seminars, staffing is reduced.
Previously, the district would call in firefighters for overtime to keep the minimum at 19. But during budget discussions for 2014 held in late 2013, commissioners made it clear that overtime must be reduced. It was nearly $900,000 in 2013.
Moving to 17 as the minimum staffing got the approval of four of five fire commissioners.
The decision, which was made at a board of commissioners meeting in November, was made without input from the firefighters, some of them said. Union officials and individual firefighters spoke at that meeting, asking that they be able to have more input before action was taken. But commissioners approved the 17 minimum staff without that which bought about criticism from firefighters.
A public group, called Kitsap Fire Watch, began posting signs that questioned the administration’s action. They have posted online the days when the Chico Station has not been staffed with professional firefighters. That happens when firefighters are needed at other stations to keep those numbers to a minimum of 17 firefighters. Volunteers are available for the Chico Station on those days.
The aim of the Kitsap Fire Watch, it says, is to serve as a community resource to improve the availability of information related to the actions of the boards of commissioners of Kitsap County’s fire districts.
Ultimately, what resulted was an offer from the administration to form the CKFR economic summit group to look at the financial situation in the district and creative ways that it could be addressed. The district has lost millions in past years due to a declining assessed value of property for taxing purposes throughout the district.
At the time the economic summit group was approved by the commissioners, at least two of the commissioners offered to serve. If there were more, it would be quorum and would have to be open to the public.
Since the reduction in minimums, Kitsap Fire Watch has posted the days when the Chico station is not staffed. The station has been closed ten times, according to the site.