The Sammamish City Council will meet in a special session this Monday, October 14th, at 6:30 pm at Sammamish City Hall, to discuss a recently released report on the Eastside Fire and Rescue Department, prepared by a consultant.
Tom Odell, Sammamish Mayor says, “We are evaluating if it is in our best interest to leave the Eastside Fire and Rescue Department and set up our own. We’ve been in intense negotiations for over 18 months and we feel like we are not making much progress. There will be fire protection and it will be as good or better than we have now. “
Jon Wiseman, President of the Eastside Fire Fighters Union, IAFF, Local 2878, says the process by which the City Council is attempting to negotiate with Eastside Fire and Rescue is flawed and not focused on public safety. “The city council has made up its mind to leave Eastside Fire and Rescue. Restricting information, rushing the process, not seeking public input, all of these issues lead us to believe that the Sammamish City Council already has decided to leave Eastside Fire and Rescue. Firefighters helped pay for a mediator to address their concerns. But, the city manager announced he would recommend the city leave the partnership before the last meeting could be held. Not only did we waste money, but also so did Sammamish taxpayers. They paid more than $65,000 for a consultant study that wasn’t even finished when the city manager made his recommendation.”
Wiseman says, “We repeatedly requested a copy of the consultant’s final study to review what is being proposed for the future of fire service in Sammamish. The city announced yesterday that it would release it on Friday. This gives the public just two days to analyze it before the first of only two council meetings where the public can comment.”
Wiseman also objects to the speed in which the city seems to be moving forward with a decision. “Originally, the council was scheduled to vote on this issue December 3rd. Now, the city has moved up that date to November 5th. Why the rush? Public safety is one of the most important issues a community can discuss. The city has spent more time seeking input for its community center than fire and life safety services! The city should develop a public process that outreaches and asks for input from those affected by what is being proposed.”
Mayor Odell says he has no issue with the firefighters themselves, but how the cost for the Sammamish based stations is shared with nearby communities they also serve, including Issaquah. “We have no problem with the guys in the stations. In fact I owe them a personal debt as they have saved my bacon. But there is a 11 to 1 imbalance between the calls responded to in Sammamish, and the calls responded to in Issaquah and nearby, yet Sammamish contributes far more to the overall cost.”
Wiseman responds, "Sammamish residents currently pay one of the lowest levels of taxation for fire service as any suburban city in the state - just $216 dollars for a $300,000 home per year in Sammamish. Next door in Issaquah, residents pay $282 for the same home and in King County Fire District 10 they pay $348."
Wiseman says, “Firefighters need community support. To stay informed on important dates and updated information send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Attend the City Council Special Meeting this Monday, Oct. 14, 2013 at 6:30 pm at City Hall. The Sammamish Council has indicated that they plan to vote on this issue at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013, at 6:30 pm at City Hall. An opportunity for public input is limited. Come to the meetings and make your concerns known.”