Editor’s note: The Town Crier has interviewed each of the six candidates for the Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission. The series began on July 14 with interviews with incumbent Commissioners Pete Capparelli and Paul Riggi and continued on July 21 with interviews with challengers Paul Miglin and Mark Spehar. Today concludes the interviews. Ballots will be mailed to voters and will be due back to the Registrar of Voters’ office by Aug. 30.

Larry Donahoo. Photo: J.P. Crumrine
What are IFPD’s priorities for the next year and next five years?
Given the current state of the economy, the first priority is to get the financial side of business in order. I’d also see the need for accountability. We don’t have any sort of accountability over there that I can see and it’s vital.

How can you help achieve these priorities?
Common sense and experience to know who and what questions to ask is what I’ll bring to the commission. And, I will ask a lot of questions.

Are the district’s finances resolved? What is the need for Measure G?
I don’t believe the district’s financial problems are resolved. Each meeting they change. One month from the next, they don’t figure.

Are there operational priorities?
I believe Measure G is important to the district’s future. But the only way I can agree with its passage is if certain things, such as how the money will be used, is guaranteed.

Where will the money go? It needs to be for capital improvements, building maintenance, equipment and cash reserves. I’m for that.

If it’s for salaries and benefits, I can’t support it now. I urged a former chief, 15 years ago, to get more revenue. I said, “Tell the people what you need it for and state the case honestly and they’ll give it to you.”

What about getting more inspections completed?
Yes, we need to do our own inspections and with objectivity. We need more inspections. If staff were doing more inspections, they would be meeting with property owners and becoming familiar with properties and structures that could become potential hazards.

Lack of inspections creates distrust. Do more inspections and we’ll see thing make a difference down the road.

What about the latest grand jury report? Will IFPD do the study?
We don’t have the volume of calls that tie up the guys’ time so that we need separate fire and medical staff. If we were so busy with individual calls that took the majority of the personnel’s time, I’d see a reason to break off, but it’s not that way.

At this time, I’m not sure we can afford to do that study. To do it well, you’d need an outside consultant and I don’t think we have the extra money.

Why did the paid-call cadre virtually disappear?
In every organization, members’ interests and responsibilities change. Keith [Smith], Steve [Friemoth] and myself are all in similar situations. The requirements of our businesses here change. They take more of our time and this is what takes care of our families. But between the three of us, you pretty much have 100 years of fire experience.

It’s tougher now. The tests are tougher. Encouragement and patience can rebuild the paid-call firefighters.