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Forum set for Tracyton closure
The Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue District is looking at whether or not to close Station 44, in the Tracyton area and has set a date for public open house and discussion.
The station, which is manned by all volunteer crews, is at 300 NW Tracy Street. Discussion about closing the station for financial reasons surfaced last November during budget discussions for the current year’s budget. The district’s board of commissioners decided this week to hear public comments about the pending closure on March 24.
According to Assistant Chief Jay Lovato during the budget discussions, the station is in need of repair and to make it safe, it would cost the district about $500,000. To find a new location and build another new replacement station would run about $1.5 million.
Lovato said the district wants to move volunteers from Station 44 into Station 41 and have a combined station to serve the Tracyton and Meadowdale areas. Station 41 is at 7600 Old Military Road and is about 2.5 miles away.
Fire district officials said the reduction in assessed value of property in the Central Kitsap district during the past five years has resulted in financial issues for the district. In all, the district has lost more than $1 million in tax revenues because of the drop in assessed value of property in the district.
A specific dollar figure for what will be saved if the station is permanently closed was not given and hasn’t been calculated, said Lovato.
“It’s just not as easy as a simple figure,” he said, “given that this building is 51 years old and has safety requirements that have to be met which essentially means on-going costs if it stays open.”
Station 44 is targeted for closure because it was built in 1963 and is much older than Station 41, which was built in 1979.
The district plans to have an open house at Station 44 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 24 and then move to Station 41 to begin the discussion about closing Station 44.
Fire Chief Scott Weninger said the meeting was being split so that those attending could see both stations before discussion about the closure. He said Station 44 is too small to host a public meeting and lacks space where audio visual equipment can be set up for the meeting.
Residents of both areas are asked to come with their questions and suggestions. Anyone needing information prior to the meeting should call 360-447-3550.
Because the station is manned by volunteers, the closure will not result in any job loss for any firefighters, paramedics or administrators, Weninger said.
Commissioners did not ask about changes in response times if Station 44 is closed. That information is expected to be presented at the meeting on March 24, Lovato said.
Fire union officials said they were happy to see the district communicating with residents of Tracyton prior to making a decision.
“We appreciate the district working so hard to communicate with the residents of Tracyton,” said Ronny Smith, vice president of IAFF Local 2819. “The residents of Chico should have been communicated with in the same fashion.”
Smith referred to the district’s decision about reduction of force at the Chico Station which was made late last year without a public open house.
At the same meeting on Monday, commissioners approved a resolution that will allow the district to bill the responsible parties for services related to motor vehicle accidents, hazardous materials spills, and major incidents such as structure fires. The resolution also gives the district the option to use its contracted billing service to recover costs.
According to Weninger, state law allows fire districts to recoup costs for responses to events like auto accidents and hazardous spills, but the district hasn’t been doing that.
“The board has asked us to do this because it is a source of revenue that we haven’t been tapping into,” Weninger said. “We have a draft policy that we are going to implement over time to see how it works.”
The policy allows the district to seek its actual costs from any “responsible party” including individuals or insurance companies. An example listed is that the district will charge $46.98 per hour for the Battalion Chief that responds, ($70.47 per hour if it’s on overtime) to $34.61 an hour for each firefighter/EMT that responds (or $51.92 per hour if overtime.) A chart accompanied the resolution listing all levels of employees that may respond and the fees that would be charged.
Apparatus costs will be based on the current Washington Association of Fire Chiefs’ wage and equipment rate schedule and consumable costs (supplies) will be based on the CKF&R actual costs.
Weninger said under the draft policy, billing will begin if the response takes more than 30 minutes and/or is a “significant” incident. He said many fire districts throughout the state have enacted similar policies and CK is going to try it to see if it is a useable revenue stream.
Potentially, anyone who is deemed responsible for an accident could be billed, he said. There was little discussion about the measure and it passed unanimously.