North Bend supports keeping EFR intact: City Council OKs increase for regional firefighting agency

Ready to spend another $110,000 annually, North Bend is doing its part to keep the tenuous partnership of Eastside Fire & Rescue members together.

In a series of meetings, the North Bend City Council has acted in support of keeping the city of Sammamish in their shared seven-year fire protection partnership, despite the increased costs it will mean for the city. In a vote at their Nov. 5 meeting, council members approved a new funding model that could cost the city $110,000 more annually.

Sammamish has been discussing withdrawing from the partnership since June of 2012, when economic advisors suggested the change to save the city money.   The Eastside Fire partners, Sammamish, Issaquah, North Bend, and Fire Districts 10, and 38, including Carnation and unincorporated areas of King County, all paid for fire protection services according to their assessed value in the original agreement of 2008, not on calls for service. Sammamish had reportedly been paying more than its share of operating costs for its Station 83 in Klahanie because of the funding model, and proposed changes that would include calls for service in each partner’s share of the costs.

“All along, North Bend has been supportive of some form of (funding) for calls for service,” said North Bend City Administrator Londi Lindell.

Although North Bend opposed an initial proposal from Sammamish that partners pay half based on value, half on calls for service, the city has supported later proposals, including a 75/25 split between assessed value and calls for service, and the latest 85/15 split. This proposal includes additional provisions that could bring the cost up to $110,000 more annually, but should only cost about $85,000 more in 2015, the first year of a possible new contract.

“We still believe that (EF&R) is an outstanding value,” Lindell said Nov. 5, and several councilmen agreed. “We would very much like (Sammamish) to stay a part of the partnership,” she added.

Councilman Jonathan Rosen however, cautioned the group that the action might not preserve the partnership. “This in no way guarantees that Eastside Fire & Rescue will stay together,” he said.

Each of the EF&R partners must agree to the funding change. Issaquah’s City Council met last Monday Nov. 18, and approved the new model. Sammamish’s council received a lot of public feedback in support of preserving the partnership in recent weeks, and voted in a special meeting Nov. 12 to approve the new funding model. However, there are other details in the agreement to be worked out.

If Sammamish were to withdraw, North Bend Councilman Alan Gothelf had said at the Oct. 15 council meeting, it would be detrimental to the partnership,  leading to slower response times and decreased economies of scale for the remaining partners. Gothelf was appointed in a special meeting Oct. 22, to represent the city on an ad hoc committee negotiating the future of EF&R. Rosen was designated his backup Nov. 5, and Councilman Dee Williamson has been representing North Bend on the EF&R Board of Directors.


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