Issaquah contributes more for fire protection

November 27, 2012

Eastside Fire & Rescue board members approved the agency’s $22.2 million 2013 budget Nov. 8.

The budget represents a 3.1 percent increase from 2012, something Deputy Chief Wes Collins attributes to already-agreed-to wage and benefit increases for firefighters, as well as to modest increases in several programs that the agency cut during the recent economic downturn, such as volunteer training and protective clothing for firefighters.

“After the downturn, we cut back on a lot of supplies like clothing and bunker gear,” Collins said. “Those things have a shelf life and we’re coming up on a bubble where they’re going to have to be replaced.”

EFR determines each partner’s bill for fire services based on the assessed value of areas covered by specific stations.

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Officials examine Eastside Fire & Rescue’s business plan

November 27, 2012

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.

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Eastside Fire & Rescue scales back Issaquah headquarters remodel

October 18, 2011

Eastside Fire &Rescue reduced the size of a proposed remodel, and the agency’s board unanimously approved the smaller proposal Sept. 19.

EFR staffers had initially proposed a $500,000 remodel of the facility to include expanding office space, adding storage and putting in a new women’s bathroom on the building’s second floor.

Sammamish, Issaquah and North Bend officials had balked at the extra cost. The Issaquah headquarters technically belongs to Fire District 10, although it is shared by all of the partners in EFR.

Officials questioned paying for a remodel, and then possibly losing the use of the facility, because some EFR partners have made noise about leaving the partnership when it expires in 2014.

EFR staffers had proposed creating an amortization schedule to set how much each partner would be repaid if it left the agency. Such a schedule, however, would require amending the agreement that underpins EFR, a time-consuming process that would require approval by the governing boards of each of the five partner jurisdictions.

At a Sept. 19 meeting, Wes Collins, EFR deputy chief of planning, proposed a $50,000 remodel — simply installing a new women’s bathroom on the second floor of the headquarters building.

Because the new proposal was relatively small, the EFR board agreed to pay for the remodel out of reserve funds, and not bother with changing EFR’s charter.

Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72 mixes red and ‘green’

October 11, 2011

Solar panels line the rooftop of Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72. Contributed

Station 72 is designed to lessen impact on environment

The red accents on Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72 offer a traditional package for the “green” features embedded throughout the building.

Station 72 is the most energy efficient fire station on the planet. The city and EFR spearheaded a project to create a next-generation facility as a showcase for “green” innovations in Issaquah and a model for other fire departments.

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Eastside Fire & Rescue board balks at price tag for proposed headquarters remodel

July 26, 2011

Within minutes of resolving to work out their differences so that Eastside Fire & Rescue could exist past its current 2014 expiration date, the fire agency’s board of directors grappled with a thorny issue as old as the agency itself.

Fire officials are pushing the agency’s partners to chip in for a remodel and expansion of the headquarters building, located on Newport Way Northwest in Issaquah.

In March, Deputy Chief Wes Collins proposed reconfiguring the inside of the building to add seven offices, a conference room, copy room and an upstairs women’s bathroom, as well as a storage building for EFR equipment that currently sits outside.

That plan’s approximately $500,000 price tag was a nonstarter for representatives from Sammamish, Issaquah and North Bend, some of whom questioned the wisdom of committing their taxpayers’ money to permanent improvements to a building that belongs to King County Fire District 10.

A hazy future for the agency also didn’t help.

Some partners were involved in discussions about an independent taxing authority for fire service and the agency’s interlocal agreement allows partners to withdraw from EFR in 2014.

Sammamish had never been interested in joining a fire authority, and discussions appear dead on arrival for cities like Issaquah, which would see a nearly 40 percent increase in the cost of its fire service, according to projections.

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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.

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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.

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EFR response times improve, overtime drops

March 2, 2010

When Eastside Fire & Rescue Chief Lee Soptich finally had a chance to reflect on 2009, one he counts as the most stressful of any in his 24 years as a fire chief, he said it was a mixed bag. Read more

Planners say residents will be proud of Station 72

July 7, 2009

EFR facility clears planning hurdle

City officials and architects are set to complete the design of Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72, which will be constructed on a portion of the Issaquah Transit Center site. Contributed

City officials and architects are set to complete the design of Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72, which will be constructed on a portion of the Issaquah Transit Center site. Contributed

Before a city Development Commission last week, Eastside Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief of Planning Wes Collins stopped for Chinese food — and received a hopeful sign. Commissioners were set to consider plans for Station 72, a long-overdue EFR facility. The message inside Collins’ fortune cookie read, “You will reach a goal for which you have been striving.”

Collins later told development commissioners how officials first identified a need for a fire station in the northwestern part of the city in 1986. Officials hope to begin construction on the new EFR facility in early 2010.

“We’re glad to finally have a facility in the planning and development process,” Collins said.

Commissioners discussed the Station 72 proposal July 1. City planners will ready the project for further design work and obtain development permits. Read more

Development commissioners weigh medical building, Station 72 proposals

July 2, 2009

NEW — 12:23 p.m. July 2, 2009

City development commissioners raised questions Wednesday night about a pair of high-profile projects — a medical building along Interstate 90 and Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72.

Before developers can begin work on the proposed medical building, designers must soften the “fortresslike” facade and ensure easy access to the site, city development commissioners said.

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