Fire District to hold public workshop on 2020 budget October 30

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan County Fire District # 7 has burned through 80 percent of its 2019 budget as of the end of September. Fire Chief Mark Donnell said, “We are usually around 75 percent this time of the year. It will not impact us dramatically.”

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Chelan Fire Chief Mark Donnell gave a budget and activity report
to the Fire commissioners.

Part of the issue is the loss of an estimated $40,000 in State Mobilization money. There were no fires requiring State Mobilization callouts this year. “I’m not complaining,” said Donnell. “No fires is a good thing.”

Chief Donnell reported that the District hasn’t touched $5,000 that is in the budget for training props. Another $7,000 has been saved by not having to replace equipment

The District responded to 66 calls in September of which three were fire related.

The Washington Creek Fire was the largest. “We had 27 of our members on that fire,” said Donnell. “Seven were on the scene in 20 minutes.” The rest of the team took an estimated hour to arrive. Twenty were on the fire and seven remained at the station standing by. “If it had not been a holiday, I don’t think we would have seen this response.”

The Washington Creek Fire ended up with 83 total personnel responding including firefighters from the Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, and unites from Pateros, Orondo and Manson. “The DNR was right there with a helicopter,” stated Donnell.

Commission Chair Russ Jones asked how the communication was between the different agencies. “Pretty good,” said Donnell. “Asher (assistant fire chief) was made operations supervisor.”

“Sixty six calls is a little low for us,” stated Donnell. “We had a fire in Chelan Falls and had a crew already in the Falls. The other fire was a call to Navarre Coulee.” Chelan 7 took the call despite it being a District 8 fire. “Agencies are having problems with staffing. If we service other districts we might not have coverage in ours.”

“If I can get 27 people to a fire, I’m happy as a clam,” said Donnell after the response to the Washington Creek Fire… a fire that could have gotten a lot bigger if it wasn’t for the response.

“This year 1,519 people have perished in a house fire,” said Donnell. “That is unacceptable.”

The question of nepotism has also raised its head at the Department, but Donnell told the Commissioners that there is a policy in place that a commissioner or Chief cannot have a direct line of communication. “This could have been an issue, but even the Union has no issues with the policy.

“A potential fire commissioner having a son on the department is not an issue,” Donnell said. “We are trying to be as transparent as possible. People are making issues on Facebook posts without looking into the facts.”

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Assistant Chief Brandon Asher 

Assistant Chief Brandon Asher stated that no one had applied for a position in the department in September. He said the Safety Fair was well attended and successful. “We have an educational resource event coming up,” said Asher

Stipend coverage was only 29% and difficult to fill those slots on weekends. “With other Departments hiring it is difficult to retain people,” said Asher. “Hopefully we can get the stipend program working.”

Asher said the last drill was good. “We have an opportunity to burn a house down,” said Asher. He also stated that the firefighters need to get more familiar with the air pacs.

Fire Association report:

Dan Crandall reported that the Fire Association started the month with $16,983 and ended with a balance of $20,340.00. He reported that 90 of the 144 tickets for the Firelight Gala were sold and that the auction items were valued at $25,000. “KOZI is running ads just before the event,” said Crandall. “We are hoping to sell out.”

The Association gave $1,000 to the Council of Fire Fighter Burn Association in the name of Christian Johnson, the Okanogan firefighter who died recently of burns receive on a fire.

Budget:

Chief Donnell reported that nothing has changed on the 2020 budget. The District will carry over $600,000 with a reported tax revenue of $2,0074,139, $227,129 remaining on the SAFER grant and an estimated $65,000 in other revenues.

Expenses are pegged at $2,054,542.00 with a $57,27 carry over.

Fire Distict Budget 001

This is the budget worksheet for the years 2019 to 2022. Note that the District is only collecting $0.87 per $1,000 valuation. In 2022 the District will be looking at a slight increase from the voters to maintain the level of service currently being deployed in the District.

Donnell stated that the generators the District has will not do the job they need to do. “It is a critical item we need to look at,” said Donnell. Commissioner Jones suggested that the Department look at propane tanks. Donnell said that is definitely something that could be looked at. “The community can contribute comment as well,” said Donnell.

Donnell said the department needs to look at a sever replacement. “Our servers are five years old and it will cost around $5,000 to replace them.” He also wants to change the locks at the Station. “We’ve had a number of volunteers and others with the combination that are no longer associated with us. It will cost around $3,000 to change them out”

They have received a Phase one grants for $24,000 and $12,000.

Jones said the department isn’t putting anything into apparatus replacement. “That is a big concern for me,” said Jones.

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Commission Chair Russ Jones

Jones also stated that the district will have to have a funding proposal for 2022. “We will have to decide by next year or cut some services. We can’t do it without more funding.” Jones also said that with the new insurance rating at his house, his home owners insurance went down by $127.00. “That’s the math we have to look at. This is the stuff we need to examine and we need to do it soon.”

Jones also reiterated that the district would not be looking at a tax increase to $1.50 per thousand. “It will be smaller than that.” It was also noted that Emergency Medical Services will also be looking at an increase at the same time.

Donnell said the Budget needs to be at the County by December 1 and recommended a budget workshop. “I would like to get some input from the public,” said Donnell.

Jones stated that both commission candidates need to be involved in the budget decisions and suggested the workshop be on Wednesday, October 30 at 10 a.m.

Bill Bassett, a candidate for the vacated Witherbee commission seat said that it would be interesting to have the public involved.

Commissioner Comments:

Commissioner Jones said he was somewhat bemused about the fabricated stories that keep showing up on Social Media. “To see that kind of rhetoric creeping into our little town is a cancer.”

Commissioner Phil Moller did not contribute to the comment period.

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