Clallam Fire District No. 2 chief details proposed levy lid increase
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funding for four firefighter-paramedics expires in 2014, Phillips told about two dozen attendees of the weekly Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting.
The fourth position will be covered by not filling an assistant chief position, Phillips said in a later interview Tuesday.
The levy lid lift also would provide 24-hour firefighter-paramedic coverage for the first time ever for district residents, who now get that coverage from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Phillips said in the interview.
The district, organized in 1943, provides fire protection and emergency services for 4,650 homes — about 9,500 residents — in an 85-square-mile area that comprises the communities of Deer Park, Black Diamond, Dry Creek, Lake Sutherland and Gales Addition.
Sixty percent of the district’s emergency calls come from Gales Addition, Phillips said.
Cost of increase
The levy increase, called a levy lid lift and on the ballot as Proposition 1 for fire district voters, would add 39 cents per $1,000 of valuation to the existing levy of 76 cents per $1,000 for those residents and business owners within the district’s boundaries.
The hike alone would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $78 a year.
If the measure passes, the total annual property tax bill would be $1.15 per $1,000, or $230 a year for the owner of that $200,000 home, to support the district.
The district’s existing tax rate of 76 cents per $1,000 of valuation is the lowest of any full-service fire district in the county.
It has a $1.25 million budget, of which about $738,000 is generated by property taxes.
The levy increase would generate $350,000.
Phillips also talked of a shrinking pool of volunteer firefighter-emergency medical technicians.
Their numbers have declined from an optimum of 60 to today’s 35, Phillips said.
For example, the contingent of Gales Addition fire station volunteers has contracted from 25 in 2008 to the present-day 15, Phillips said.
That has compromised firefighter-EMT response times to the average 1,000 emergency calls the district receives every year, Phillips said.
Volunteers firefighter-EMTs earn a stipend of $8 to $10 for time answering calls.
“They were becoming overworked, they were becoming burned out, they were leaving,” Phillips said.
“Response times have increased to unacceptable levels.
“Public safety is at risk without some sort of full-time help with Fire District No. 2,” he continued.
The four firefighter-paramedics “are our only boots on the ground,” Phillips said.
“We need to balance volunteer and full-time emergency personnel.
“We need to take some of the pressure off our volunteers.
“Without this balance, we risk losing more volunteers.”
Levy committee member Mike DeRousie, himself a fire district volunteer firefighter-EMT, also gave a brief presentation at the PABA breakfast.
“We just can’t keep doing what we are doing,” he said.
The loss of the firefighter-paramedics also could increase fire insurance rates for fire district residents and businesses, Phillips said.
PABA donated $100 to the Committee to Support Clallam County Fire District 2.
The district can increase the levy by 1 percent a year without a vote of district residents.
This would be the district’s first levy lid lift since 1984, the same year former President Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale for Reagan’s second term in office.
Phillips, who joined the district in 2011, said in the interview that within months of arriving, he became concerned about the problem of the district attracting volunteers.
The district lost 39 percent of its volunteers from 2008 to 2011, prompting Phillips to step up volunteer recruiting efforts.
“That was a bellwether statement, if you will, that was the trigger that we need to look at this,” he said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 10. 2013 5:37PM