Camano Fire part of extensive study of area fire districts

A detailed study numbering more than 300 pages and comparing fire districts in North Snohomish County recommends some cooperative efforts.

“There’s a lot of recommendations in here that are going to take some time to digest.  I think the document is going to be very useful,” said Commission President Pat Metz.  “With the final document published, it’s time for the public to review it.”

A detailed study was released Thursday evening, Sept. 5, by Emergency Services Consulting Incorporated (ESCI), and was reviewed in advance by Camano Island Fire and Rescue’s administration and commissioners.

“We were pleased with the analysis,” said CIFR’s Fire Chief Mike Ganz.  “For a District our size, the level of service we offer and the financial stability we have is significant.”

Don Bivins, Senior Associate and Project Manager for Emergency Services Consulting International, agrees.

“I was very impressed by the [Camano] Fire Department’s understanding of the budget and the funding sources coming in. I can honestly say that I have not run across organizations which surpass Camano Island’s aggressive handling of their budget,” said Bivins.

The study also suggested other options for increased efficiencies between fire districts throughout North Snohomish County and Camano Island. Specifically, cost savings in volunteer training and other cooperative efforts were proposed.

Camano Island Fire and Rescue reviewed an advance copy and noted the information will be helpful in the coming strategic planning process.  The study provided comparative data, reflecting the District’s management and structure relative to neighboring fire districts.

“We think the information presented was pretty thorough, and can only be helpful to us as we move forward with our strategic planning efforts,” said Ganz.  “We’ll continue to explore the ideas presented by ESCI, and are thankful to our neighboring districts and cities for participating in the study. Communication and cooperation only leads to efficiencies.”

Ganz indicated the study is timely, as the District is launching a new strategic planning effort, engaging the community in a discussion about the next six years of service.  The comparative data with other districts will prove to be helpful, as CIFR assesses its own structure and services.

While the ESCI report did offer as one option a regional fire authority be formed to include CIFR and North County fire services, the report showed that it would increase costs to Camano Island residents.

“Islander’s taxes would rise by 14 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, while the North Snohomish County residents’ tax rate goes down by 24 cents,” he said.  The study noted a “moderate to low likelihood of success for financial reasons,” and posed “a substantial tax increase to the taxpayers of Camano Island.”

Commissioner Metz thought an RFA between the districts was unlikely at this time.

“The economics aren’t there, but we want to keep an eye on it if the economics change.  It’s a matter of paying attention to what’s going on around us,” he said.  “We experienced that in the Stanwood contract, when our residents didn’t want to continue a relationship that presented additional costs to them.  But there may be a time when it makes sense.  It requires a decision on the part of voters.”

Chief Ganz agreed.  “You can imagine that more taxes for what would likely result in a reduction in services is not acceptable to us or our constituency,” said Ganz.  “We are open to all partnerships, but they have to make both operational and financial sense.”

The District is holding a public workshop on October 5, together with the District’s Board of Commissioners to study the recommendations.  The discussion will also lead to the next steps of the district’s strategic planning process.

“We welcome the public input, and the discussion that comes from this process,” said Ganz.

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For more information about Camano Island Fire and Rescue, or to schedule a meeting with Fire Chief Mike Ganz, please call the administration office at 360-387-1512.

 

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