While financial reports and current conditions were the main focus of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s commission meeting last week, the major news was Commissioner Nancy Layton announcing her resignation. She and her husband, Rick Foster, are moving to Hemet.
With the recent change in the election years for IFPD directors, Layton’s current term will end in December 2018. Her seat is up for re-election in November 2018. A replacement will have to stand for election on the November 2018 ballot.
Commission President Jerry Buchanan said he would appoint a committee to search for a replacement at the December meeting. At that meeting, the commission also will elect its officers for 2017.
Layton was elected as a commissioner in August 2013. In September, former Commissioner Pete Capparelli resigned and Layton was selected to fill the position in November, a month before her official term began. She has served as treasurer since the position was established in early 2014.
As a member of the finance committee, Layton asked the commission to review the reports, which included October’s data, but to give the committee more time to work with the financial consultant Rob Dennis.
“We noted a number of concerns and I’ve requested a meeting with Mr. Dennis, the chief [Patrick Reitz], Battalion Chief [Mark] LaMont and you [Buchanan] to discuss these issues,” she reported. “There are still software issues with the new accounting system, so [the meeting] will wait until some of that is resolved.”
Ambulance service continues to make a significant contribution to both the community and the IFPD budget. Revenues are much ahead of last year, Reitz reported.
Last month, nearly 75 percent of calls were medical related. Patient service numbered 197 compared to 129 in October 2017. Ambulance revenue for November continues to outperform 2016. Reitz then opined, “We are an [Emergency Medical Service] provider in a fire department business; that’s why we have such a focus on the emergency medical care.”
The commission briefly discussed the election results for Measure W, IFPD’s proposal to increase the parcel fee, which is unlikely to be approved. While the “Yes” votes continue to exceed the “No” votes by 57 percent to 43 percent, approval requires two-thirds of voters choosing “Yes.”
With about 70,000 votes out of 800,000 in Riverside County to be counted, the commission was not ready to concede.
“This shows we do have strong support in the community, but two-thirds is a tough nut to crack,” Buchanan said. “Future thoughts are premature until the final count.”
The commission expressed interest in understanding why a large percentage of voters did not support the fee increase. Buchanan said he put a survey on the December agenda “to determine what we have to do differently to get 66 2/3 percent.”
Firefighter Greg Minor, who was at the meeting, expressed concern that some of the public might be concerned that service will change as a result of the election results.
“It would change regardless of the measure; we need to do some education. We need to pick up our boots and move on,” he recommended. And Layton agreed that the “district needs to get the message to citizens that service will not be curtailed.”
On the positive side of finances, besides increasing ambulance revenue, Reitz reported two other increases. IFPD received a $33,000 check for reimbursement for past ambulance underpayments. This is the second payment from the state.
Through its Ground Emergency Ambulance Transportation program, the state Department of Health Care Services obtains additional federal funds. It uses these to provide supplemental payments to public agencies who accept Medicaid payments for ambulance transports. These payments typically do not cover the entire cost of transporting a patient to a hospital.
The second financial benefit was a $10,000 volunteer firefighter grant, which the department will match, for purchase of equipment.