I am writing this letter in response to an article in the July 26 edition about forming a regional fire authority. It is like “deja vu all over again” for me.
I retired from the city of Walla Walla Fire Department in 2011 and during my time with the department I participated in three such studies.
The last one was around 2009 and was a very comprehensive study that considered staffing, manpower placement, apparatus placement, station locations, budgets, response times and management just to name a few. Chief officers, company officers, paramedics, EMTs and firefighters from all three agencies formed several committees in order to look at everything that would be involved in merging the departments — the good as well as the bad. The three department’s current chiefs were involved in this study.
A detailed written report was generated. This study was done at minimal cost to the agencies involved. If I read the article correctly the Walla Walla City Council paid $54,017 to a consulting service to look at this issue again.
I understand it has been some time since the last study but the roadmap was still in place. Seems to me that a simple review and up date of that report could have been done at a fraction of the cost. Why would the city foot the whole bill?
The formation of a regional fire authority looks very inviting in many ways but the devil is in the details. Walla Walla and College Place would no longer have to budget for their respective fire departments. If you live in the county you will notice on your property tax statements there is a charge for EMS and fire protection. That is where the district fire departments and RAFs receive there funding.
They have the ability to raise that amount each year, under state guidelines, with out a vote of the people.
The city of Walla Walla has fulltime 24/7 protection, both EMS and fire with stations positioned for quick response times. Municipal departments receive their funding through the city budgeting process and an EMS levy that requires a vote of the people.
To bring that same level of service Valleywide would be cost prohibitive. It would require additional personnel, stations and equipment.
The formation of a RFA will not be a cost savings to the taxpayers of the Valley and in some cases it would reduce your service.