Commissioners hold re-vote for empty seat, discuss more hires

This was the second time in two weeks that the board had voted to approve Schran Brown’s application to serve in the seat vacated by Andy Johnson.

Brigitte Schran Brown, a former commissioner and current volunteer emergency medical technician for Vashon Island Fire District (VIFR), was voted onto the board and sworn in to fill a vacant commissioner’s seat on the VIFR board at a meeting that took place on April 27.

It was the second time in two weeks that the board had voted to approve Schran Brown’s application to serve in the seat vacated by Andy Johnson, who resigned from the board on March 2, citing a lack of civil discourse on the board.

Schran Brown — the only applicant for the position — was first voted onto the board in an unanimous vote by April 12. However, that meeting was declared null and voice following the determination that the meeting had been held in violation of the Washington’s open meetings law, because a notice of it had not been posted on VIFR’s website.

At the April 27 meeting, the vote to appoint Schran Brown passed 3 to 1, with Chair Candy McCullough this time voting nay to the appointment, but not stating a reason for doing so.

A unanimous re-vote also took place appoint Camille Staczek as temporary secretary of the board; this action, too, had been taken at the April 10 meeting that had been declared invalid.

The reboot of Schran Brown’s appointment appeared near the bottom of the board’s agenda for the evening, but was moved forward after Schran Brown twice asked McCullough for that change to be made so that Schran Brown would be able to vote on measures presented on the agenda.

At the meeting, the board also heard from Warren Merritt, who works for Prothman Recruitment, a firm that has been hired to assist the district in its search for an assistant chief of operations, to fill a post left empty after the recent retirement of longtime assistant chief Bob Larson.

Interviews of five final candidates, who Merritt described as “very experienced and very talented,” will take place on May 11, with commissioners, volunteers, VIFR staff and invited members of the public asked to participate in separate interview panels.

In a later report to the board, Chief Charles Krimmert also detailed other staffing matters, including the fact that the district’s career firefighters would soon be fitted for body armor as part of an upgrade of the force’s personal protective equipment.

He said he had asked Prothman to assist in the search for replacements for Rebecca Nason, who recently resigned as the district’s secretary and finance manager, as well as a facilitate local and national advertising for the replacement for the district’s mechanic position, which will become open in August.

Krimmert also discussed the implementation of the board’s directive at the March 30 meeting to immediately increase minimum staffing for full-time firefights/EMTs to four per shift, up from three.

Krimmert said that he had created a voluntary overtime position to scale up the platoon’s size. The position started on April 7, he said, and in the 21 days ensuing, it had been filled nine times, partially filled two times, and left open 10 times.

Krimmert also noted that the part-time paid firefighter’s force had now diminished to consist of five such employees, and given other hiring priorities, he was currently not making an attempt to fill those vacancies.

Following up on questions from commissioners Pam King and John Simonds, Krimmert said VIFR’s annual budget allowed close to $400,000 for the part-time force’s wages and benefits. Thus far in 2022, he said, the wages paid to part-timers have only accounted for $42,000.

Currently, the district has nine full-time career firefighters on the force, with four conditionally hired or in training to join the force in the coming months.

However, at the meeting, Schran Brown pointed out that three of the current nine firefighters are likely to leave the force in the near future — one due to retirement, the other two to accept other positions.

In response to Schran Brown’s statement, Krimmert said he was not fully aware of the staff departures which were not retirement-related, but would replace any firefighters when necessary.

Finally, during the meeting, Krimmert confirmed that a pair of ospreys had been spotted in a nest placed atop a newly built pole located on the district’s property. The new pole, erected last month at Krimmert’s urging, replaced another nest that had been destroyed by workers servicing a cell tower in front of the station.