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Sammamish added to fire district
NORTH BEND _ Bright red fire trucks belonging to Eastside Fire
and Rescue, the fire organization that serves the North Bend and
Carnation areas, will now be seen cruising the streets of yet another city.
After months of controversy, the city of Sammamish was
officially added to the consortium of fire departments referred to as "EFR."
"We're excited that all the negotiations are completed and we're
going to be part of the EFR consortium," said Michael Wilson, Sammamish
city manager. "It's a great arrangement for everybody."
EFR Chief Lee Soptich is pleased with the new addition and wants
to reassure residents who are covered by the fire group that everything will
run the same.
"There are some subtle changes about how we do things, but
everything else should stay intact," he said.
EFR now includes the cities of North Bend, Issaquah,
Sammamish, and Fire Protection District 38, which serves the unincorporated
King County area between Snoqualmie and North Bend. Also included is
District 10, which provides service for the unincorporated Pine Lake/Plateau
area and Carnation.
District 38 was the last district to vote, giving its approval at a late
November board meeting. The vote to include Sammamish was unanimous
by all fire board officials of each partnering city or district.
Sammamish established itself as a city one year ago and its officials
had until Dec. 31 to decide whether to create an independent fire department
or contract for services with EFR. The city already contracts with
King County for police services.
EFR courted the new city because it was already providing service
for Sammamish, and officials didn't want to see that tradition lost.
"As District 10 and EFR have been the service provider for that area
for almost 60 years, we looked at that as an important part of what makes
EFR an important organization," Soptich said.
In addition, Sammamish contributes $3.2 million of EFR's $14
million budget money that would be lost if the city went its own way.
The new contract still allows Redmond's Fire District 34 to
protect the north end of Sammamish because it can provide quicker service,
This agreement is much like EFR's subcontract with Snoqualmie to
provide fire service for an area that its trucks can get to more quickly.
Because of the vote, Fall City's Fire District 27, which worked
cooperatively with EFR, will not respond to any calls in the Sammamish
area. Officials said fire trucks from District 27 went to Duthie Hill, but that area
is also covered by EFR, and there was no need for the overlap in service.
Another difference in the contract is that it's been extended from
what was originally five years to seven.
"Sammamish wanted long-term stability, and obviously we are all
for that at EFR," Soptich said.
EFR started two years ago when officials from Issaquah and District
10 decided to start a cooperative firefighting effort, and then
included North Bend and District 38. It has taken time to iron out problems,
but the addition of Sammamish, as well as the two-year extension, is proof
for some officials that the fire consortium is on the track to success.
Feelings were different in April after longtime Fire Chief
James Rankin abruptly resigned and Issaquah officials said they wanted
to separate from EFR. Some of the controversy was linked to talk of
One reason some EFR board members were hesitant about adding
the new city was that the Sammamish City Council had talked of wanting
fire trucks with their own logos, instead of EFR's. This would
mean Sammamish would be the only member to have a separate logo,
which launched debates over whether other cities should also have
Another point of the controversy over Sammamish was that it had
a lower levy rate the amount of money that would be contributed
to EFR which made board members wonder if the city would be paying
less for more services, and would therefore get special treatment. After
several meetings and weekend retreats, the organization managed to keep
all of its members.
"It's a far cry from where we were a year ago a year ago we were
wondering if EFR was going to fall apart," Soptich said.
Sammamish's fire trucks will display EFR's logo and the levy has
been reworked to be fair for all partners.
"Everybody's contribution was based on District 10's levy
rate," Soptich explained. "Now [the contract] says that the directors will
formulate a new funding model by June 2001."
The model will be based on a number of factors to make each
partner's rates fair, he said. For example, if one partner pays the same amount as
all the rest but has fewer calls for service to that area, that would be an
The new criteria will include the assessed valuation of houses in the
city or district, the number of calls for service, and other items yet to be decided.
"It's a great thing, and I say that for a couple of reasons: It will
ensure that all partners will be comfortable about what they pay for service,
and it should alleviate the resentment over levy rates," Soptich explained.
"Now you're comparing apples and apples. If you have more calls
in your area, you should be paying more," he said.
Soptich added that the benefit of a large fire and rescue organization
is that residents will receive more resources and services for less money.
EFR has its own fire investigation team, hazardous-material
response team and technical rescue group.
EFR has eight actively operating stations and five volunteer
stations, including Wilderness Rim.