When you read this column, Idyllwild Fire’s May 14 meeting will already have occurred. Nevertheless, one of the agenda items merits some discussion and next week, I’ll report on the action at the meeting.

In the previous episode of this soap opera, we left IFPD with the discovery of a missing $100,000. They were planning on a “meet and confer” session with the Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association before last night’s meeting.

Apparently they met, but the issue is not on the agenda and neither is a financial report. Perhaps it will be for the May 28 meeting, which leaves them 33 days until the end of the current fiscal year.

However, on the agenda is a proposed contract to hire somebody for bookkeeping and accounting services.

There’s no mention of the possible cost for this contract. But they have a service agreement with Nancy Layton for $250 weekly. She is the third person performing this function in the past three years.

Please understand no one has mentioned Nancy with this current lapse. It appears to have started before her agreement with the commission last June.

They also have an administrative captain. One of his responsibilities is “development and determining accurate budgets and accounting issues of the fire department.”

He has actually been involved with the preparation and management of Idyllwild’s budget since former Chief Steve Kunkle managed the department.

The administrative captain was the second highest paid member of the department last year according to the IFPD report to the state controller’s office. He made nearly $143,000, more than three fire chiefs or the captain.

Of course much of that was overtime, but how much time was devoted to those accurate accounting issues?

The administrative captain negotiates for the Association. In most organizations, the budget decisions are clearly management’s responsibility, so it seems a conflict for an association member (i.e., union rep) to oversee the budget process, then negotiate against it.

So where will this money for the new financial contractor come from? Perhaps some combination of these two sums will cover the new contract; but how they will pay for it is not mentioned in the agenda.

In the last episode, Commissioner Jerry Buchanan said IFPD would probably generate another deficit this year.

Also on the agenda is preparing the third consecutive request for an advance of property tax revenue, which is due in December.

Keep tuned in on the continuing saga of your public monies managed at IFPD.

Oh yeah, they plan to raise ambulance rates? Let’s ask why, since nearly 75 percent of the department’s cost is for salaries and benefits, which didn’t change this year.

Idyllwild Chamber
Another local soap is approaching its finale.

It is a shame that the Chamber of Commerce is dissolving. But one can’t blame people for being reluctant to expose themselves to personal financial liability for actions taken by predecessors.

I’ve often written of the many volunteer groups in town. We depend on them and they are essential to our community, but none has the responsibility of courting visitors to Idyllwild year round.

The festivals do it for their specific event, and credit the Art Alliance, which does sponsor events throughout the year.

Perhaps in the future a replacement will arise from these ashes.

Just remember more than 50 years ago, the town had two chambers.