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Vote ‘yes’ for the Bremerton EMS levy
On August 5, the Bremerton Fire Department is asking voters to renew the Emergency Management Services levy.
Let me start out by saying that several members of my own family have served in the fire service in both paid full-time career positions and volunteer part-time positions. I myself have worked in a private sector, emergency responder support industry for the past nine years. Through my occupation, I have the pleasure of talking with and getting to know a wide variety of individuals from municipal departments all over the United States as well as those whose military fire departments are located on bases overseas. I get to hear what works for these departments and what does not.
The economic and budget situation that Bremerton finds itself is not unusual. In fact, it is very typical. The emergency responder industry continues to find new ways in which to survive. Successful departments are always looking for innovative ways to improve operational efficiency, increase community communication and outreach and still ensure that they remain in full compliance with industry standards.
The traditional, historical methods and mentality that has served this industry for so many generations without much of a thought are now failing to perform in this modern environment with situations and threats that had not existed in those simpler and more innocent times.
The bottom line is that Bremerton has become positioned in such a way that the renewal of this levy has become a necessity if the level of service is to in anyway meet the increasing level of demands. This precarious position only looks to worsen as the primary hospital facility for the county begins its transitional move from Bremerton to Silverdale. As the patient transit time increases for full emergency treatment, reliance upon funded and fully trained first responders to arrive at the scene of an emergency quickly becomes an ever important critical component.
That said, there is considerable room for improvement when it comes to communication between the leadership of the fire department and the community about updates on changes made to the levy money being spent over the entire six-year term. Promises made to the community upfront about staff levels and new hires that will be paid for by levy funds, either need to occur or be fully and transparently explained as to why it has not occurred or will not occur.
Currently, we have an aging department staff. It is an aging staff that requires an expensive payroll that is even more expensive when overtime is used and accumulated as a rule of thumb instead of as a coverage exception.
Recent events have revealed that an overhaul and/or a considerable change in oversight needs to be implemented to correct a difficult silo mentality in the fire inspection component so that new businesses opening in the city are assisted with those openings instead of slowed down, delayed or prevented.
Vote “yes” on the Bremerton EMS levy renewal but continue to insist that the city leadership work to deliver communication, oversight and operational changes that will improve and build upon the trust this community has for these services as well as for future funding requests.