Jerry Buchanan attending his first IFPD commission meeting, as commissioner. Photo by J. P. Crumrine
“We’ll go broke before five years,” Idyllwild Fire Chief Norm Walker told the fire district’s commission, while discussing when to hold a workshop on its budget situation.

“You need to come up with a vision and look five years out,” Walker urged the commission. While the commission was pondering its responsibility to Firefighter Greg Minor, who earned his paramedic credentials this summer, Walker advised the commission that a new ambulance purchase is on the horizon.

The commission had already appointed an ad hoc committee, composed of commissioners Jerry Buchanan and Pete Capparelli, to negotiate with the Idyllwild Career Firefighters’ Association.

“The Chief has cut as much as he can,” said President Jeannine Charles-Stigall as she was the explaining the reason for the committee’s formation. “The only thing left is employee contributions.”

The Dec. 13 meeting was the first for the commission with new members Larry Donahoo and Buchanan.

While no major actions were taken, the commission took several steps that will have long-lasting ramifications.

Besides creating the ad hoc committee, the commission took a formal vote to continue the paid-call firefighter group. At the November meeting, Chief Walker recommended dismantling the group because membership and interest has waned over the past several years.

At that meeting, speaking as Commissioner-elect, Donahoo asked for a decision to be deferred until this month. Donahoo retired from the program a year ago.

“It’s a viable program, but just pushed aside,” he said. “If the commission and Chief want it, it can happen and be beneficial. There’s absolutely no effort made to get new members.”

After Donahoo spoke in favor of the paid-call program, the Commission unanimously approved its continuation. However, no action was assigned to develop a plan for rejuvenating the group.

In June, the District did approve the creation of the Idyllwild Volunteer Fire Company. Information about membership and qualifications is on the IFPD website. Information about the paid-call association is not available.

The commission also discussed its expectations and relationship with the Chief and management decisions affecting the Department.

Capparelli stressed, “The Chief should run the day-to-day business of the department.” None of his colleagues objected. Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly commented that he expected the Chief to bring the major decisions to the commission as a recommendation for approval. “I just want it procedurally correct,” he replied. “The commission is not here to mirco-manage. The Chief implements the policies.”

This discussion moved to the status of changes to the District’s “Rules” policy. The Chief distributed a copy of the proposal and the commission will discuss its approval at its January meeting. This policy has been undergoing revision since spring 2010.

The commission began discussing Minor’s pay since he has earned his paramedic certification. The Chief, who said he would prefer to pay Minor as a firefighter/paramedic, repeated his position that the additional funding is not available within the current budget.

This is the reason the commission decided to hold a budget workshop next month. The commissioners plan to review the entire District budget, looking for a source for the $18,000 needed for Minor’s raise.

Otherwise the new commission did not address the District’s financial plight. In response to a public question, Walker said the advance of $450,000 worth of property taxes and special assessment revenue would be repaid to the Riverside County from the Department’s December and January revenues.

In the past two years, IFPD has received an average of $510,000 from these sources in December and January. If the average collection occurs this year, IFPD will have about $55,000, along with its current bank balance of $425,000 for payroll and expenses through April. The next major revenue infusion will be from the May property tax receipts.

Future IFPD meetings
6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20

  • Confirm if CalPERS Retirement November payment is being made in December
  • Review bookkeeper position description and candidates
  • Complete Chief Walker’s annual performance evaluation
  • Direction to Ad HOC Committee Negotiating with Career

8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7

  • Workshop on 2011-12 budget


  1. Walker’s ‘vision’ failed to recognize the looming budgetary shortfall and he refused to follow the board’s directions to address the matter. Sounds as tho they made the unpopular choice for right reasons.