Vote no on the fire levy | Guest column

by BOB PHALAN

As most people do, I too appreciate Orcas Fire and admire the volunteers. I dedicated 17 years of my life to it and them. I do not believe this entitles the administration to a blank check.

It is with amazement that I have read the district’s proposal to renew the levy at the same level (over $2 million/year for 10 years) that it took to build two new fire stations, buy a third, replace seven engines, a rescue truck, a brush truck, two tenders and two ambulances with money provided by the “temporary” lid lift in 1999. The district has no such huge capital expenditures on the horizon.

A healthy dose of skepticism is in order. It has been very disheartening to witness the culture of entitlement that has become the order of the day by this administration. Orcas Fire has clearly forgotten exactly whose money they are spending.

When you vote “NO” you are not voting against the fire department or the volunteers. You are voting FOR fiscal responsibility. A “NO” vote will not compromise emergency responses for you or your family. The threat that the district will have to cut services if this initial levy request fails is simply untrue.  The present levy fully funds the district through the end of 2014.

The most disturbing detail is the ivory tower that has been built in just the past few years. Wages and benefits for the paid staff have increased by over $400K to nearly one million dollars. The top two positions alone are costing tax payers a quarter of a million dollars per year.

As president of the Firefighters Association I lobbied in favor of the “temporary” lid lift to be approved by voters in 1999. The money was well spent until the bond was paid off in 2012. Today, the district is in need of some serious belt tightening, seeking alternative funding methods and reducing the administrative positions. The Fire Commissioners have refused to reign in spending so it is clearly time for the voters to do so. You are the last line of defense.

Most importantly, it is critical for us all to remember that Orcas has many families who are struggling financially. There are long lines at the food bank every week. Please consider the fact that this levy forces our neighbors to pay for bloated salaries at the top that they simply cannot afford. Please talk to some of these people. You will find they will welcome the much needed reduction in their taxes.

Insist the district do some serious soul searching, slash administration costs and resubmit this levy in the fall.

I am asking that you join me in voting no on Proposition One.

Bob Phalan was a volunteer EMT with Orcas Fire from 1997 to 2013.