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Fire merger still planned for November ballot

West Sound Fire & Rescue officials looking at regional fire authority funding.

This is a very important year for the West Sound Fire & Rescue (WSFR) planning and steering committees.

The planning committee had its first meeting of 2009 Tuesday afternoon in Bremerton and are still confident the potential formation of WSFR will be on the November ballot.

“I’m optimistic that we’re going to pass this in November,” said Dave Fergus, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR) commissioner and WSFR planning committee chair.

CKFR, South Kitsap Fire & Rescue (SKFR) and Bremerton City Council members spent a good portion of Tuesday’s meeting discussing the finance options for WSFR.

Financial consultant Bill Cushman created a financial planning model, known as the Cushman model, so fire personnel can plug in data and get an idea of how the potential regional fire authority will be funded.

“This is one of the most complex things we’re doing,” SKFR Chief Wayne Senter said.

Former Bremerton Finance Director Laura Lyon is now on board with WSFR and plugged 95 percent of the data into the Cushman model.

Senter explained the current information plugged into the Cushman model is not exact. Lyon and others working with the model looked at data and estimated approximately what the numbers would be.

“We have not got a recommendation for you right now,” Senter told the planning committee.

Planning committee members also showed concern for WSFR’s transitional funding at the meeting.

The three fire agencies might keep their funds separate when WSFR is potentially formed. Senter said it may take some time to meld all the funds together.

“This is really an important issue,” Fergus said.

Planning committee members said the permanent WSFR governance board cannot take effect until WSFR funding is secured, making the financial aspect of the potential regional fire authority even more of a priority.

“Everything ends up hinging on that date the funding is in place,” Fergus said.

The WSFR timeline was adjusted at Tuesday’s meeting. The WSFR finances recommendation and overall work plan deadlines were extended. The finance recommendation is slated for potential approval at the end of February and the overall work plan could be approved at the end of March.

Senter said this did not extend the overall timeframe, but simply cuts some time when fire personnel could be getting the word out and educating the voting public about WSFR before the November election.

“We want a good product we can stand behind,” Fergus said.

The next WSFR planning committee meeting is from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20 at the Kitsap Readiness Center in Bremerton. The public is invited to attend.

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