Fall City Fire woes continue
Last week, the fire commissioners and Chief Chris Connor presented a comprehensive, detailed budget draft for the future financial needs of the fire department. Fall City, being a small and independent fire entity, has functioned on a needs-based, bare bones budget as long as it has existed. The reality that getting our fire department up to standards is a little above our community’s pay grade is an understatement.
As early as this week, our firefighters could have had every one of the extensive needs on that list met, and at a cost savings of about $300,000 to the community as a whole. Alas, to “Save Fall City Fire,” we are looking at the most expensive M&O (maintenance and operations) levy to date, simply to catch our firefighters up to the standard all other fire departments are functioning by. Not only are we looking at drastic cost increase to taxpayers to “maintain local control,” the needs of our first responders will have to be allocated over the course of years for needs that could have easily and more affordably been met — every single one of them — now.
Our Fall City firefighters, whom we claim to respect and love, are wearing carcinogens on their bunker gear because they cannot wash them with only one set. If proposition 1 would have passed (the failed ballot measure that would have merged Fall City with Fire District 10), by July 1 they would have had a second set, among an extensive list of other items. Now we are looking at months to provide them with the safety gear they need. All this, to “save Fall City fire,” which essentially means that the sticker on the side of a vehicle stays the same.
As I noted in an earlier letter to the editor, the nostalgic feelings of lore and silly small town politics have toyed with the safety of the very men and women we claim to love.
Additionally, in order to figure out ways to cut the overall M&O levy costs, those who were the most proud of the fact that Fall City does not charge for transport, were asking about charging for transport this year and wondering if that would be a feasible option to help scrape up some money so our levy isn’t so expensive. This was one of the biggest points of contention by Proposition 1 opponents at the Jan. 7 commissioner meeting, and now they’re backpedaling on their own values simply to find the money for their fire department to survive.
At a FCCA meeting this past summer, concerns were brought up regarding the tax increases to the lower income residents with the potential passing of Proposition 1. Who is going to tell those same residents how much more they’ll have to pay to stand alone than if they had merged? We are looking at around an 18-percent tax increase for every citizen in Fall City, including the lowest income residents. The information the community was provided stated that voting “No” would protect the lower income families, and it is apparent that was all misinformation to preserve the nostalgia of what the fire department was 30 years ago. This is unsafe, dishonest and shameful.
It appears that slowly but surely, the Save Fall City campaign is going to have to sacrifice its own mantras and values to fulfill its promises to maintain local control, keep tax costs down, and at the very least, keep our town’s department at least five to six years behind the eight ball when it comes to standards. Either that, or it won’t be able to support the firefighters it claims to love, as was clearly stated by its “Save Fall City” representatives at the town hall meeting in late March.
Hopefully sooner than later the most ardent and vocal opponents of the fire department’s needs will be able to trust those hired and elected to do their jobs, swallow their pride, and truly provide our community with the first response service it deserves.