Special meeting tonight at Chelan 7 to discuss fire district staffing levels

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6 p.m. at Chelan Fire Hall
232 East Wapato
Chelan

By Richard Uhlhorn

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Chelan Fire Commissioners – Jay Witerbee, Phil Moller and Russ Jones will gather information from the public at a special meeting tonight at Chelan Fire Hall.

This evening at 6 p.m., Chelan County Fire District 7 commissioners are holding a public meeting to hear from both sides of the argument of whether or not to re-run the ballot measure that voters voted to fail in April.

There has been a concentrated effort by the local firefighters and the district to save the six career positions that are paid through December on a FEMA SAFER Grant.

The District paid $14,000 for a consultant and group of Chelan residents to assess the District and one of the issues was retaining the six firefighters after the grant ran out. The consultant came back from the community and reported that while the community likes the level of service the District provides, it did not want to raise taxes to pay for retaining the six firefighters. by a overwhelming vote of 60-40 percent.

Despite the Consultant’s and his team’s report, the District bowed to the firefighters wishes and ran the issue on the ballot anyway and the voters voted by a overwhelming vote of 60-40 percent against raising taxes. The cost of retaining the six would run $860,000 a year.

Proponents of putting the issue back on the ballot argue that the issue failed because the public wasn’t educated enough to know what they are losing service wise, and that it would be a detriment to the public safety of residents residing in the District.

The opponents are arguing that raising taxes and retaining these six firefighters is not the answer to the District’s issues. They would like to see a more balanced career firefighter/volunteer district with a resident program.

Currently, if these six firefighters are let go after the grant ends, the District still has six fulltime career combat trained firefighters and a number of volunteers who are either combat trained and/or are becoming combat trained giving the District 24/7 coverage.

Russ Jones, chairman of the board would like to see a compromise to the situation and try to retain three of the six firefighters by possibly raising the current levy level from $0.92 cents per assessed value by $0.25 cents or a $1.17 cents per assessed value.

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Chairman Russ Jones hopes that tonight’s discourse is respectful.

“I hope we hear from both sides tonight,”  said Jones. “I also want the discourse to be respectful.”

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. upstairs in the conference room at Chelan Fire Hall.

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