Opinion

Listening in at CKF&R

There’s reason to be hopeful.

After several months of harsh communication between the administration and commissioners of the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue District and representatives of the IAFF 2819, there’s movement toward all parties getting together to discuss how to face the economic woes in the district.

What set off the fire storm was an action by Chief Scott Weninger last November. He sought and got the approval of fire district commissioners to reduce the minimum staff from 19 to 17. That came about because of the amount of overtime the district has had in the past few years.

Now, there will be a minimum of 17 firefighters on duty at any one time on any shift. The maximum that the district likes is 25.

On most days, it averages about 23 firefighter/EMTs on duty. When the minimum was dropped from 19 to 17, it saved the district money due to less overtime. But it has meant that on at least two occasions,  the district’s station at Chico was staffed with only volunteers and no full-time firefighters.

Through the union, firefighters said they were upset that they were not asked to take part in the decision. They said they would have liked to have been able to suggest other things. But they could only sit by and watch it happen.

Now, the district’s administrators, commissioners and firefighters have agreed to come to the table to discuss ideas that will save the district money. It’s being called an “economic summit.”

The district does have financial issues. It has lost more than $1 million in property tax revenue since 2008, when the assessed value of homes in the district has dropped.

Administrators are looking for ways to recoup money in creative ways, such as charges to residents that get their services but don’t pay taxes due to the fact that they were never annexed into the district.

The district faces another tough decision soon — whether to close the station at Tracyton. Those who take part in the economic summit need to look for ways to deal with this situation that protects residents in that area.

But the bottom line is that all parties are back at the round table listening to each other and to all the ideas to help with the reality of tough times. It would be prudent for them to ask for community residents to take part, too.

And, ultimately, fire administrators and commissioners for CKFR need to be more proactive in getting ideas and comments from all those affected before setting policy.

 

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