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Fire district tightens its belt

Chief Marv Koorn outlined several belt-tightening proposals at December’s meeting of the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue board

At the Jan. 20 meeting, several of the measures were adopted.

“We have no choice because the levy lift lid was defeated in the November election,” Koorn said.

Voters twice turned down the fire district’s levy proposal in 2008, both times by overwhelming margins.

Commissioner Bruce Carman also presented a proposal that will have a major impact on water rescue services the district provides.

Carman presented a draft of a letter to fellow commissioners Larry Morse and T.J. Lamont that directs Koorn to submit a letter to the Board of Island County Commissioners stating the district can no longer spend the amount of money it has been spending on water rescue.

“In 2008 we spent $9,000 on water rescue services and because of the levy lift lid failure, we cannot continue to spend without being compensated,” Carman said.

Carman stressed this does not mean the district is scrapping water rescue and noted $9,000 is not a lot of money, but right now it amounts to an expenditure that cannot be afforded.

He suggested that Island County reimburse the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue District for money it spends on water rescue services.

“The sheriff received a grant that he used to get the boat fixed, but we are still the initial responders for water rescue because there are not enough deputies,” Carman said. “We will be more than happy to back the sheriff’s department up, but we can’t continue to be the primary responders for water rescue.”

Koorn agreed. “As we take into consideration budget reductions due to the levy lift failure, this is one area we need to take a look at,” he said.

Commissioners approved the letter and also gave approval to the district charging fees for the use of its meeting room facilities at fire stations.

“In the past, we have always allowed people to conduct public meetings and classes for free, but now we are going to have to charge them a fee,” Koorn said.

Under the fee schedule, there will be a $25 charge for four hours, $50 for four to eight hours and any more than eight hours the fee would be $75.

Commissioners approved an agreement that any group that had already reserved a district facility would not be charged a fee. After March 1, the fee schedule would go into effect.

“If all the people who now use our facilities will continue to use them, this would generate approximately $4,000 per year,” Koorn said.

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