Firefighters offer to hire mediator
November 5, 2013
By Ari Cetron
Eastside Fire & Rescue’s firefighter’s union has offered to pay for a mediator to work out problems between Sammamish and Issaquah.
The two cities have been at loggerheads over the funding model for the regional fire agency. For years, Sammamish has been complaining that the current model ends up with Sammamish subsidizing fire services for other partners, in particular Issaquah.
For the past 18 months, Sammamish has been trying to negotiate a new funding model with the other EFR partners —Issaquah, North Bend and Fire Districts 10 and 38.
Under the new model, Sammamish would pay less. Issaquah would likely pay more, and has been reluctant to adopt the new model.
This has led Sammamish to explore starting its own fire department. Under the terms of the agreement that holds together EFR, if Sammamish wants to leave, it must declare its intent to do so by the end of this year.
Firefighters have been generally opposed to the idea of Sammamish leaving and have been pressuring the Sammamish City Council, and to a lesser extent the Issaquah City Council, to find a way to keep the agency together.
On Oct. 31, the union offered to pay for a mediator to help the two parties hash out their differences.
The EFR board had been working with a facilitator for the past few months in an effort to try and patch up relationships between the partners.
Jon Wiseman, president of the firefighters union, said that a mediator would be a more intensive process. The facilitator was basically a master of ceremonies that helped others talk.
“A mediator comes in and brings sides to an agreement,” Wiseman said.
He said he thinks the mediator could work now because of pressure from the public.
“I think it’s going to work now because the community has become aware of what’s going on,” Wiseman said. “I think both cities need to solve this issue.”
The Sammamish City Council is set to vote on whether or not to leave EFR Nov. 12. The Issaquah City Council may take action on whether or not it is willing to discuss a change to EFR’s funding model Nov. 18.