With island voter approval of the fire district’s increased levy, district commissioners and chiefs are moving ahead with plans for next year and beyond — creating a budget and hiring staff as well as drafting a long-term vehicle replacement schedule.
Islanders are invited to the Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) commissioners meeting on Tuesday to give feedback on the 2018 budget before commissioners adopt it on Dec. 12.
VIFR Chief Charlie Krimmert presented an updated draft of the proposed 2018 budget at the board meeting last week. It shows the 2018 tax revenue estimate from the county is approximately $4.4 million, an increase of $2 million over last year. Combined additional sources of revenue, including other funds from King County, the fee-for-transport program and the possible sale of property, bring the district’s estimated total revenues to $5.2 million.
Some notable projected expenses include nearly $350,000 to pay for 12 part-time staff, the allocation of $200,000 to begin addressing deferred maintenance and repairs, and approximately $100,000 added to each of the district’s new fleet, facilities and reserve accounts. The draft budget indicates the district would have approximately $553,000 in revenue that had not been otherwise allocated. Krimmert said he would put half that amount in the district’s reserve account to draw from between tax revenue installments, which come in twice a year.
Krimmert also noted that the district’s fire academy, which began in July, will conclude next month. Eight students will graduate as firefighters, five of whom will then volunteer with the district. The department also plans to hold another academy beginning in January. Already four islanders have signed up for the course, Krimmert said, and they, too, will volunteer for the district.
Krimmert noted that he is looking to hire one or two full-time firefighters and that seven will start part-time with the district next month.
The district has recently had some extremely busy days in addition to responding to the house fire last Thursday.
Assistant Chief Bob Larsen noted that two days in particular had a high number of calls. On Monday, Nov. 13, the day of the windstorm, the district fielded 15 calls. Many of them were about downed trees, he said, but all required a response. However, the preceding Friday, Nov. 10, the district received five calls involving six patients in a 45-minute period. The first was an individual who stopped by the station, was checked out and went home promising to call if the problem worsened. Shortly after that, a call from Neighborcare Health came in, saying the clinic had two patients from a car accident, who had arrived by private car. Just as the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrived at the clinic for that call, a Neighborcare representative called again, saying they needed the paramedics for a cardiac emergency. The medics took that person to the hospital, while the EMTs transported both patients from the car accident in one ambulance. Then within two minutes of each other, two calls came from the downtown area, one for a medical emergency at a business and the other at a residence.
Larsen said they put a call out for island volunteers, and both he and Krimmert responded to calls, but one of the incidents — the residential medical emergency — had a response time of nine minutes — well over the desired time for an in-town call.
Fire officials say these recent busy days illustrate the need for additional staff, which Krimmert and other district officials stressed leading up to the recent election.
The next board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Station 55 on Bank Road.