Thoughts on the fire levy | Guest column

by Clark Cundy

Orcas Island

My 2 cents on the lid-lifting Fire Levy and Candidates running for OIFR District 2. Many of us have probably voted already but it took me some time to get more up to speed.

After attending the League of Women Voters Fire and Port Candidates meeting at the Firehouse the other evening. I had heard about all the attrition, lawsuits in the dept, the union members’ vote of no confidence in the chief by his own employees, elected board members quitting in frustration, and appointees being assigned to fill those positions.

In the meantime, the Fire Personnel, EMT etc., were still functioning at a high level of professionalism even though they were working in a toxic environment. Our staff was and is continuing its high level of knowledge and professionalism despite the current climate. Bravo to all of them! To me this is amazing.

In listening we also heard that most of our equipment is getting old and needs replacing and the dept was going broke. I was sitting there thinking about staggered equipment purchasing, depreciating them off on separate schedules so they all wouldn’t be needing replacement all at once when there was a 10-year period to get this done. I747 was mentioned as a contributor to the dept deficit, I747 has been on the books since 2002. I747 doesn’t prevent small taxing districts from submitting a levy hike, it forces some transparency in the process, which is where we are and probably why consultants were hired.

What I came away with was a sense of confusion at the current state of financial affairs at OIFR and the reasons for the lid to be lifted. With that confusion, I’m saying NO, and WHOA on the levy lid-lifting offering until after the election of newly elected board members is done and they’ve had a chance to get up to speed and rewrite it. Its my understanding that there is still time to rewrite the levy. I do appreciate the appointed members for stepping up to fill the legal needs of enough people to run the dept and have a quorum. This levy was put together mainly by individuals, who are not on the board anymore, a chief that is gone, an accountant that has quit, consultants, and a less transparent process to get to where we are.

Einstein said, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ So we need some new thinking from new people. There are two competent people running for Fire Commissioner seat 1. Kate Hansen and Toni Knudson. Let’s put them on the ballot for the November election. It’s our best chance to make positive changes happen and heal the department so we can move into the next phases. I worked hard for my money and want it spent wisely for things in the budget like operations and capital expenses, not on lawyer’s fees and consultants.