Incumbent John Frazier will face challenger Michael Beard for Position 2 of Fire District 45 in Duvall.
Frazier is a 12-year incumbent and resident of Duvall since 1987. He has 50 years in emergency services and comes from a family with a long history in the fire service.
Beard is currently a Bellevue firefighter and has a background in real estate and city planning. He served more than 25 years as a naval officer and lives in Duvall.
If elected, what would be your budget priorities?
Frazier: If re-elected my budget priority is a stable funding source.The fire district is a special taxing district and limited to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This amount is subject to limits of 1 percent growth each year. If inflation increases greater than 1 percent per year, the fire department falls behind. State statutes classify taxing districts into junior and senior taxing districts. Fire districts are junior taxing districts and fall behind senior taxing districts which makes for unstable funding. A more stable funding source for fire districts is the benefit service charge. The 1987 Washington State Legislature passed RCW 52.18. The statute provides that fire districts, with the approval of the voters in the district, are authorized to collect a fire benefit charge from residential and business property owners. The assessment must be “reasonably proportioned to the measurable benefits to property resulting from the enhancement of services afforded by the city or town fire department.” Simply stated, the charge is based on the forecasted cost of fire suppression. Factors such as building use (residential or commercial), square footage and discounts for fire sprinklers are applied through a formula and the fee is determined. If enacted, the BSC replaces one third of the district’s regular taxing capacity and its collection is limited to 60 percent of the operational budget. Although not a tax, the benefit service charge is collected by the county along with taxes.
Beard: The most urgent need that District 45 faces is funding the operations of the new station. The residents of Duvall voted for the increased services this provides, but how we fund it is still undecided. The benefit service charge is the proposed path forward, and I support this. It allows us to increase our funding overall, and yet has some reduced fees for many homeowners.
What do you believe is the biggest need in the district and how would you address this?
Frazier: I believe the stable funding of the fire district is paramount, thanks to the voters for funding the bond issue last year, allowing the building and manning of the new fire station 16, the purchase of the new fire engines and hiring of new firefighters to man station 167. To accomplish stable funding passage of the benefit service charge is a must.
Beard: Long term staffing, funding and training are currently the biggest needs. Our area is growing rapidly, and the demands on our firefighters are increasing with that growth. The funding can only be secured through the benefit service charge, or a levy. How we spend that money is part of the role of the fire commissioners. My background in operations, commercial real estate management and leading large teams places me in a unique situation to look for ways we can best use the citizens’ money to ensure we have an efficient and highly capable department. I have negotiated with some of the largest tech companies in the world, operated with foreign governments, worked for and with some of the highest-ranking members of the military and served on a development commission for Issaquah. These experiences will help me with the duties as fire commissioner.
We should expect our department to grow to enable our crews to respond to incidents. Currently if an aid call dispatches to the eastern region of the district, and then transports that patient to a hospital, the whole area is short the primary aid car for up to two hours or more. That is detrimental when it comes to time critical calls like cardiac arrest, stroke, trauma, or fire emergencies. We remedy this with our new station and a growth approach to staffing. This may cost more overall, but the population increase will offset the individual increase to taxpayers. We also must continue to train toward the large fires and incidents that could occur here in town. The new urban growth housing near Safeway is denser and more crowded than what Duvall is accustomed to. A fire in this area would require large resources from our neighboring districts, and an evolving mindset from our crews. They are preparing for this through training, and I would continue to expand those opportunities for them. I would also work more closely with the city council and city planning to make sure we are utilizing the most fire safe practices in these new developments. We can monitor this with fire and building inspections during the construction and planning stages. By ensuring these buildings are sprinklered, alarmed and built to an effective fire code, we ensure that any fire event is minimized early, and responses are rapid.
How would you work to improve firefighter safety?
Frazier: To improve firefighter safety there must be great training. The commissioners and fire chiefs have been working for the past few months with the South King County Training Consortium and are planning a transitional year in 2020 with full implementation in 2021. South county is known throughout the fire service for a high-quality training program. Many north King County fire departments are joining or have joined the consortium. For information on the benefit service charge see the Duvall Fire Department Web Page at https://www.duvallfire45.com/.
Beard: Safety of our crews is deeply important to me. As a current Bellevue firefighter, I experience the risks, dangers and situations that our crews face. I believe that a culture focused on safety is paramount. This starts with small steps and is built into the policy and guidelines for a department. The greatest risks our crews face are exposures to harmful substances, working the scene of car accidents and swift water rescue. When I was flying for the Navy, one of my roles was as squadron safety officer. We put a lot of time and effort into training and crew management in order to improve safety and to maintain our currency. Similarly, firefighting has many skills and techniques that perish without practice. One of the areas I would focus on would be to strengthen many of the training partnerships between other departments in the region. This enables us to share resources, build relationships and develop shared tactics. Many of the risks can be reduced by repetition, strong crew leadership, and focusing on decontamination of equipment and personnel after exposure to fire and hazards, which helps reduce the risk of cancer and illness.