Editor’s note: The Town Crier is interviewing each of the six candidates for the Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) commission. Interviews with incumbent Commissioners Pete Capparelli and Paul Riggi appeared in the July 14 issue. The series of interviews will conclude next week with Jerry Buchanan and Larry Donahoo. Ballots will be mailed to voters and will be due back to the Registrar of Voters’ office by Aug. 30.
What are IFPD’s priorities for the next year and next five years?
As much as they need to say fire and medical services aren’t a business, they are a business. If they don’t operate like a business, they’ll go bankrupt.
They need to get the budget and retirement under control. Dealing with the budget means getting a handle on overtime. It is out of line for normal businesses. The commission’s job is to say, “You cut this or we will.”
As a business owner, IFPD should offer retirement for employees, but they’ve got to help [the district]. All businesses expect employees to pay a fair share of retirement.
If you get these two things in line, then they can worry about lesser issues.
How can you help achieve these priorities?
I have a number of years of experience in EMS [emergency medical service] and fire. I’ve been on a wide variety of calls in the community and have acquired the experience and knowledge to guide the department and local volunteer groups to become self-reliant
Are the district’s finances resolved? What is the need for Measure G?
No. Measure G is not part of the solution. It is only delaying the needed changes.
Are there operational priorities?
Engine 622 needs to get into service. It needs to be 100 percent capable of responding.
What about getting more inspections completed?
They’re not doing enough inspections. They have personnel who can be in the office while duty crews are out talking to public and doing inspections. They could complete all inspections within 30 days and each inspection should include a knock on the door and discussion with homeowners.
What about the latest grand jury report? Will IFPD do the study?
Idyllwild’s ambulance should pay for itself. If they don’t, there needs to be a financial review and correction to achieve this. The users in Pine Cove, Mountain Center and Garner Valley should pay for the service. [The cost of] fire service is what the community should pick up.
The grand jury’s financial findings should be corrected with one or two months. They should not linger for years.
What will the board do about the comments directed at Commissioner Schelly?
The [California] Government Code states both volunteers and paid-call firefighters are classified as volunteers, which, in the same section of code [it states] volunteers are allowed to hold political office and serve on boards. In my view, there is no conflict to Commissioner Schelly serving on the commission.
Why did the paid-call cadre virtually disappear?
It’s not too late to save them. We need paid-call and volunteers due to our community’s isolation, or potential isolation, from the rest of the county. Traditionally, volunteers and paid-call were community members trained in fire and medical service. They were readily accessible and had intimate knowledge of the community.
Other departments are finding, in the event of a disaster, that recalls are problematic because the staff is not living in the community or region thatthey are serving.