The Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) commission signed a contract with Mike Sherman to be the interim Idyllwild fire chief. Sherman, the former Crest Forest Fire Chief, agreed to the details during the Jan. 10 meeting and signed the 180-day contract before leaving the station that night.
Driving to Idyllwild, Sherman planned to say “No” to the offer. But the two-hour meeting, mostly devoted to citizen comments, helped persuade him that he could help the district salvage its financial ship and set a safe course for the future.
“I’ll try to get the finances back and help the guys and board,” Sherman said. “It may be two weeks, 90 days or five months. I’ll only do what I can.”
In response to a citizen’s comment that his inclination would be to dissolve IFPD and have CAL FIRE (also Riverside County Fire Department) assume Idyllwild’s fire and emergency medical services, Sherman emphatically stated, “Nobody asked me to come and turn the place over to CAL FIRE. I’d find that offensive.”
While Sherman definitely believes IFPD is in a perilous financial condition, he was adamant that he has found no illegalities or ineptitude. “It was people colliding with the economy and not reacting fast enough,” he told the commission. “You need to react now.”
As he finished, Sherman urged people to join him in solving the problem. Then he told the commission he would lower his normal fee from $80 per hour to $65 and limit his workweek to 30 hours.
Before adjourning, the Commission Vice President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly revised the proposed contract, and Sherman and the commission signed it that evening.
In other action, the commission took steps to align its workload with solving the district’s financial problems. First, it formally agreed to meet twice a month, beginning Jan. 24 in order to spend more time on the budget and related issues.
Several ad hoc committees were established including one composed of President Jeannine Charles-Stigall and Commissioner Larry Donahoo to begin a search for a permanent fire chief.
Other ad hoc committees were created to develop IFPD positions on the expiring ambulance contract with the county for service to Pine Cove and to assess the fire station’s immediate needs for supplies and equipment.
In addition, the commission agreed to seek bids now on its 2011-12 and 2012-13 future audits. The 2010-11 audit has been significantly delayed because the request was not filed promptly. The lack of a current audit has prevented the district from refinancing its current vehicle loans. The commission authorized this refinancing in June and only recently learned it was not going to happen.
More than half the meeting was devoted to public comments on the District’s current condition and former Fire Chief Norm Walker’s departure.