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Yes on fire levy but questions remain | Letter

April 12, 2014 · Updated 1:37 PM
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“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”  Have you had that response to your call for assistance?

I was told recently that the average age of the folks on Orcas has passed 60.  The reality of that number is such that more of our neighbors will need the services of Orcas Island Fire and Rescue. I know from personal experience the relief of having the local paramedics and EMTs roll into our driveway.  Too, when there has been a major fire event such as those at The Olga Artworks, in Doe Bay, and at the Deer Harbor Marina, volunteer firemen from throughout the community have responded in the cold, the darkness, and in the rain to protect us.

There has been recent commentary about whether we all should approve the upcoming OIFR levy for some $2 million.

Various examples of questionable expenditures or decisions have been suggested as reasons why the levy should fail. The issue of effective use of our tax dollars is one that deserves attention.  Given the increasing need for emergency services in our aging community, however, a NO vote on the levy would seem to be like “shooting oneself in the foot.”

If legitimate questions about the appropriate use of public funds need answers, then an independent audit committee needs to address those concerns. Some five or so years ago, the Orcas Island School District created such a group, the Budget Advisory Committee, which reviewed and audited the budget expenditures of the school district. That group has been instrumental in helping the district’s administrators cut unnecessary expenditures and stretch limited tax dollars to balance the budget during the past five years.

Stories about air shipments of Chinese food, and certain hotel accommodations do not inspire confidence that OIFR is properly using the funds that we have made available to provide vital fire and medical services to the community.  Given those concerns, an independent, volunteer, budget review and advisory committee similar to that used so effectively by the school district needs to be created by the Fire District Board.  Too, the district should return to the practice of having expense vouchers prepared by the County Treasurer’s Office, adding yet another check point in the process of expensing public monies.

If the Fire District Commissioners will proactively create a budget advisory committee, then I can comfortably cast a “yes” vote to approve the upcoming levy. I am of the opinion that voting “no” on the upcoming ballot issue solely to force the district to “sharpen its pencil” and try again, is to risk “throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

Do you appreciate the volunteers throughout our community who protect our property, our health, and our lives?

Are you getting older? “9-1-1, what is your emergency?”

Ed Sutton

Orcas Island

 


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