Eastside Fire & Rescue proposes 2.6 percent budget increase

September 27, 2011

Wage and health insurance costs are the prime drivers of a proposed 2.6 percent increase in Eastside Fire & Rescue’s proposed 2012 budget. Some board members, however, said they wonder if parts of the projected budget may be off.

EFR’s board got its first look at the $21.5 million spending plan Sept. 19. The budget is about $546,000 more than last year.

Read more

Eastside Fire & Rescue directors explore agency’s future structure

July 19, 2011

Veto power among ideas being considered

The Eastside Fire & Rescue board of directors decided July 14 to form a sub-committee that will probe possible changes to its governance structure — including the veto power that individual partners now hold regarding adding additional partners to the agency.

EFR is an amalgamation of King County fire districts 10 and 38 and the cities of Issaquah, Sammamish and North Bend.

The study of EFR’s structure follows the completion of a different study that examined the possibility of a regional fire authority — essentially an independent taxing district that would have moved the fire services bill from cities’ general funds to residents’ property tax bills. EFR members have been pondering the future of fire service in the area once the agreement that underpins the agency expires in 2014.

Mark Mullet, an Issaquah city councilman and one of the city’s two representatives on the board, said the study showed that Issaquah residents would have paid $1.17 per $1,000 of assessed value for fire service under a regional fire authority; they pay the equivalent of 83 cents per $1,000 through the city’s general fund now.

Read more

EFR could ask for more funding from cities

June 14, 2011

Eastside Fire & Rescue may need more than a 4 percent increase in funding from its partners in 2012.

The agency’s administration presented its draft budget to board members at their June 9 meeting. The budget predicts an $855,000 increase in expenses, due to more than $600,000 in increased labor and benefit costs.

Deputy Chief Wes Collins said the projected wage increases are a best guess by the administration, based on current cost-of-living rates.

The agency is in negotiations with its firefighters’ union and hopes to arrange for the current labor contract to be renewed for several more years, Collins said. If the existing contract is not extended and the agency and union start from scratch on a new contract, EFR may have to budget a placeholder amount until negotiations wrap up later in 2012.

Read more

Sammamish proposal could hit Issaquah School District

May 15, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. May 15, 2011

An apparent accounting glitch by King County led to two Issaquah School District schools being charged $115,000 worth of storm water fees from which they were supposed to be exempt.

On Monday, Sammamish City Council members will consider waiving the back charges, which were levied by the county on behalf of the city against Skyline High School and Cascade Ridge Elementary in 2009 and last year.

At a May 10 study session, the council appeared supportive of waiving the old fees. However, they were split on whether or not the city should continue to waive stormwater fees for schools, which contain large amounts of the impervious surface, such as paved areas, that create storm water headaches.

“It appears that a majority of communities in this part of the county are collecting fees (from public schools),” Deputy Mayor Tom Odell, who mentioned that he was not opposed to collecting the outstanding fees, said at the session. “We have identified the need for additional (storm water system development). Schools have a lot of impervious surfaces.”

Read more

Native kokanee fry released in historic ceremony

April 19, 2011

Seventy-five kokanee fry swam in a small camping cooler by Laughing Jacobs Creek, unaware they were surrounded by federal, state, county and city administrators, as well as concerned citizens — all people intent on helping the native salmon survive in the wild.

The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery teamed up with the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group and dignitaries from the city all the way to the federal level for the second annual kokanee fry release at Hans Jensen Park on April 18.

Last year, the group released the kokanee at Ebright Creek in Sammamish, and next year the release will be celebrated at Lewis Creek in Issaquah.

Jessica Leguizamon, 10, watches kokanee salmon fry swim away from her Dixie cup into Laughing Jacobs Creek as her sister Sabrina, 5, waits her turn and their grandfather, Gary Smith, looks on. County environmental scientist Hans Berge makes sure the release is done properly. By Greg Farrar

“This fry release is a critical part of our kokanee recovery and restoration efforts,” David St. John, Department of Natural Resources government relations administrator, said.

He outlined the group’s goals: preventing kokanee extinction and restoring a diverse and native habitat for the salmon.

“In our last run there was probably 100 fish, so we’re at low numbers, extremely low numbers,” St. John said.

A normal run for kokanee usually extends into the hundreds or thousands, he said in a later phone interview.

Read more

Kokanee salmon fry released in historic ceremony

April 18, 2011

NEW — 5:40 p.m. April 18, 2011

Seventy-five kokanee fry swam in a small camping cooler by Laughing Jacobs Creek, unaware they were surrounded by federal, state, county and city administrators, as well as concerned citizens — all people intent on helping the native salmon survive in the wild.

The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery teamed up with the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group and dignitaries from the city all the way to the federal level for the second annual kokanee fry release at Hans Jensen Park on April 18.

Last year, the group released the kokanee at Ebright Creek in Sammamish, and next year the release will be celebrated at Lewis Creek in Issaquah.

“This fry release is a critical part of our kokanee recovery and restoration efforts,” said David St. John, Department of Natural Resources government relations administrator.

He outlined the group’s goals: preventing kokanee extinction and restoring a diverse and native habitat for the salmon.

Read more

Join leaders to release threatened kokanee salmon

April 16, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. April 16, 2011

Darin Combs, Issaquah Salmon Hatchery manager, lifts a screen to reveal a tray of 3,100 fertilized Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon eggs. File

King County and Eastside leaders plan to gather along Lake Sammamish on Monday to release kokanee salmon fry into the wild.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger, Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend and Bellevue Mayor Don Davidson, plus representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and local organizations plan to participate and mar the conclusion of another season of Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon restoration work.

Read more

EFR, firefighters union start contract talks

April 12, 2011

As Eastside Fire & Rescue union representatives and board members sit down to hammer out a new labor deal, firefighters point to the numerous concessions they’ve made in recent years in response to the economic recession.

Board members, beholden to their own city and fire district budgets and wary of the increasing costs of fire service, say their agencies are still feeling the effect of the recession.

Neither side will comment publicly on the specifics of ongoing negotiations, but the talks are sure to be important to both sides in an agency that has seen contentious budget battles in the past.

“I’m hopeful that we can get a contract that is satisfactory (to firefighters) but still recognizes that economic conditions haven’t really improved,” said Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend, a representative to the EFR board. “Everyone is cinching up their belts across the board and public safety is a major expense at the city level.”

EFR Deputy Chief Wes Collins said the union and board hope to decide this month whether they’ll extend the current labor contract, renegotiate certain parts of the current contract or start from scratch on a new agreement.

A full-scale renegotiation would likely start in June or July and could last through the end of the year, he said, possibly leaving the board responsible for setting up 2012’s budget without knowing what they’ll have to spend on wages.

Craig Hooper, president of IAFF 2878, the union that represents EFR firefighters, said union members have gone out of their way to help the board balance the agency’s budget when revenues fell in recent years.

Read more

Sammamish balks at $500,000 EFR headquarters remodel

March 22, 2011

Eastside Fire & Rescue is considering remodeling its Issaquah headquarters to add office and storage space.

But with Sammamish’s future involvement in the agency in question, that city’s representatives were skeptical about paying for a remodel that could cost the agency about $500,000.

The details of the proposed remodel are still being ironed out, but the project would add seven offices, a small conference room and a copy room to the building, which was built in 1981 as a response station for King County Fire District 10, Deputy Chief Jeff Griffin said in an interview.

The district only had about 10 full-time firefighters at the time, but the building has now been partially converted into an administrative office for an agency that employs hundreds and covers three cities and dozens of square miles.

Griffin said there is no women’s bathroom on the second floor of the building, no elevator for disabled access and many offices designed for one employee house two. The upstairs copy machine sits in the hallway.

“It’s not an ideal use of the space,” Griffin said. “In some offices, one person has to leave the room while the other uses the phone.”

The project would also include a separate storage building behind the main building. Griffin said many of the agency’s backup vehicles and other equipment sit outside, which makes them depreciate in value more quickly.

Read more

Proposed fire authority receives cool reception from cities

March 15, 2011

Issaquah, Sammamish leaders also raise concerns about pools at joint meeting

The potential regional fire authority for Eastside communities received a lukewarm reception from Issaquah and Sammamish leaders March 10, as city councils from both cities discussed planning for emergency services and other issues at a joint meeting.

Officials from Issaquah and rural fire districts formed a planning group in late 2009 to consider a regional fire authority in the Eastside Fire & Rescue service area. The authority could tax residents to fund emergency services, unlike EFR. Contributions from member cities and fire districts fund EFR.

“It’s really hard to see a scenario where you can provide fire service to the citizens of Issaquah with an RFA,” Issaquah Councilman Mark Mullet said as leaders from both cities met at Tibbetts Creek Manor.

Participation in the planning process does not commit Issaquah or the fire districts to joining a regional fire authority.

Read more

Next Page »