On Monday, I received a question which is below. I responded and asked the writer if she wanted it printed as a letter to the editor.
She replied, “Yes, print that as a letter, but only if you give the … reply to the readers that you also gave to me.”
So, I’ve printed the incoming and outgoing below.
The editorial in the January 12, 2012, edition strongly implied that the Idyllwild Fire District has but one choice to solve our financial crisis.
Yet, we just had measure G on the ballot to raise taxes so we could have good EMS services (90 percent of the calls to the Fire Department). Why is that never mentioned?
I for one, want good EMS and fire services on the Hill and am perfectly willing to pay for it. I voted yes on Measure G and would gladly do so again.
I replied, Sue,
Would you like this as a letter to the editor? I’m happy to use it this week.
Now to answer your question, I believe Idyllwild residents need to support some tax increases. The department needs to make some cuts. And if refinancing helps the cash flow, that’s part of the solution.
In order to decide on how much tax and how many cuts, we need some agreement on IFPD’s priorities. In my opinion, emergency medical is first, not because it is 90 percent of the use, but it’s critical and residents have no other choice.
Fire prevention deserves a higher priority than the staff devotes to it. Firefighting, especially structure is important. Which leaves some discussion of the need for IFPD to devote time and resources to wildland firefighting.
After that discussion, we look at revenues and expenses. But I want my additional tax revenue to go to provide services, not raise salaries which is the first reason Ben used in April and May of 2011 to justify “G”.
Her letter could have been included in the letters below without my response, but it addresses a point which is lost in the current debates over how and why former Chief Walker left Idyllwild Fire.
Ever since I met him, I’ve respected him and the job he was doing. But the issue before the Idyllwild Fire commission and community is the preservation of IFPD, not the surname after “Idyllwild Fire Chief.”
Walker didn’t create the financial disaster. The seeds were sown and began growing before he arrived. But in the past year, its perilous nature has not been fully shared with the public.
This week, I received a copy of an Apr. 3, 2011 memo from Administrative Capt. Mark LaMont to Walker regarding the department’s failing finances.
“… should no changes be implemented come July of 2013 the district will be faced with a consistent non-recoverable financial outlook.” He meant deficits every month going forward.
Neither the public nor the commission ever saw this message. In the meeting immediately following its transmittal, former Commissioner Ben Killingsworth and Walker focused on a comparison of IFPD’s salaries to other fire agencies.
In September, when the advance request was submitted, the word from Commissioners Pete Capparelli and Killingsworth was this was normal business — not an emergency. Even Walker assured us that in December money would be in the bank for payroll and bills without the advance.
Other questions about the staff and commission actions in the past 12 months are worth exploring, after we can assure Sue that IFPD and its medical service will continue to be available.