Officials examine Eastside Fire & Rescue’s business plan

November 27, 2012

By Caleb Heeringa

It remains to be seen whether things will stay cordial when dollar figures get involved, but Eastside Fire & Rescue partners appear to be finding common ground regarding ways to fund the agency.

The agency is in a full-fledged review of the way it does business, with elected officials and city and EFR staff members holding weekly committee meetings to address the way fire service is provided and how cities are billed for it. The agreement between EFR’s partners — Issaquah, Sammamish, North Bend, and King County fire protection districts 10 and 38 — is due to expire at the end of 2014.

Sammamish has threatened to withdraw from the agency and look for fire service elsewhere over concerns the city is being unfairly charged under the agency’s assessed value-based funding model. Sammamish is pushing for a 50/50 split between assessed value and the amount of calls produced by a jurisdiction.

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Eastside Fire & Rescue’s funding committee meets at 3 p.m. Nov. 29, Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 at the agency’s headquarters, 175 Newport Way N.W.

The proportions have yet to be determined, but committee members attending a Nov. 15 meeting were generally supportive of the next funding model being some sort of combination of factors. The commission is considering the following:

  • Assessed value of the properties being served by each station.
  • The square footage of the buildings served by each station.
  • The amount of calls being produced by each jurisdiction.
  • The population being covered by each station.
  • The types of buildings (commercial, residential, multifamily, etc.) being covered by each station.

Deputy Chief Wes Collins said the agency had yet to do calculations on what the formula would mean for each partner’s bill.

Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet said that the dichotomy between the rural and urban areas inside EFR should be taken into account as well.

“We’re getting EMS responses in five minutes, they’re getting them in 15 minutes, and we’re all paying the same price,” Mullet said.

Ron Pedee, who represents District 38 in the Snoqualmie Valley, pointed out that any change to the current funding model that makes for a cost decrease for one partner would mean costs going up for a different partner.

“If we apply this criteria and it results in costs going up to serve one of the partners, we’re not going to end up doing it, even if it works intellectually,” he said.

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