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Leader of fire merger hot topic in planning discussions

Who will lead West Sound Fire & Rescue (WSFR) if the public approves the fire authority next year?

The WSFR planning committee met Tuesday afternoon in Bremerton and discussed leadership options for the potential fire authority.

First up for discussion was the WSFR governance board. Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR) fire commissioner and WSFR planning committee chair Dave Fergus said the governance board should consist of the five fire commissioners from CKFR and five from South Kitsap Fire & Rescue (SKFR) as well as four Bremerton City Council members and the mayor of Bremerton.

During several years, the WSFR governance board would be dwindled down to five people who will be elected by the voting public, Fergus said.

“I want to say it was six years when you go from 15 to 5,” said SKFR Chief Wayne Senter.

The WSFR planning committee voted and approved the governance board plan, which means it will go into the WSFR work plan “to be voted on by the citizens” in November 2009, Senter said.

“Right now, that is the decision, so it’s not going to change unless something else comes up,” he said.

The WSFR governance board’s role would be “to set policy and oversee the finances of the (fire) authority,” according to Senter.

Another hot topic at Tuesday’s WSFR planning committee meeting was the selection of fire chief. Senter said the WSFR steering committee recommended the planning committee select a fire chief by January 2009.

Fergus said hiring a fire chief from within the three participating agencies would be a smart move and help lessen the amount of change that will be occurring because they will already have a fire chief who would be familiar with the area.

“It’d be nice to have somebody local, somebody who knows the area,” Bremerton City Councilman Brad Gehring said.

Fergus also said the planning committee should consider all the options, including hiring from outside the participating fire departments, before making a selection.

Senter said hiring a fire chief from within SKFR, CKFR or the Bremerton Fire Department would be less expensive than going outside the three agencies.

CKFR fire commissioner and WSFR planning committee member Ralph Rogers said the planning committee should ask Senter, CKFR Fire Chief Ken Burdette and Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke if they are interested in the WSFR fire chief position to gauge whether or not hiring from within is a viable option.

“I think we’ve got three fire chiefs that are doing a real good job and we’ve all said we’d take any position the board would make,” Senter said.

The WSFR planning committee is scheduled to discuss the selection of a fire chief at next month’s executive session.

The WSFR fire chief would work for the elected governance board and operate as the chief executive officer over the fire authority.

The CKFR Board of Fire Commissioners is hosting a WSFR presentation, titled “What’s in it for CK?”, at their upcoming study session from 4-6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22 at the CKFR headquarters on Newberry Hill Road in Silverdale. The public is welcome to attend.

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