Next month will be the mail-in ballot election for three seats on the Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission. Four candidates — Commission President Jeannine Charles-Stigall, Rhonda Andrewson, Steve Kunkle and Nancy Layton — are vying for three seats on the commission.
The Town Crier is interviewing each candidate and sponsoring a Candidate’s Forum in early August for the benefit of the district’s voters and the whole community.
This week, you read the interviews with candidates Steve Kunkle and Nancy Layton. The interview with Rhonda Andrewson was in the July 19 issue of the Town Crier.
TC: Do you believe IFPD has a financial problem?
NL: “There is a financial problem and I would classify it as problem which needs continuous monitoring,” Layton said. “Then we can refine and improve the financial picture.
“In a perfect world, there would be access to sufficient resources to meet all the department’s needs,” Layton said. “That situation does not exist today because the taxpayer base is eroding.”
TC: The commission initiated discussions about the possibility of increasing its special parcel tax. Your opinion.
NL: Layton, who is one of several of the candidates to attend commission meetings, has spoken in support of increasing the parcel fee during these discussions.
“It needs to be raised,” she said directly during the interview. “The $65 per unit should be increased to support the quality of service available to the public through the [Idyllwild] Fire Department.”
Layton added that this has been her belief for a number of years.
TC: What’s the higher priority — new equipment (ambulance) or salaries?
NL: “That’s a tough question because both have a significant need of improvement,” Layton stated. Returning firefighter salaries to their level before the 2012 reductions will be one of Layton’s goals.
“Chief Reitz is significantly underpaid for the quality of work we’re getting,” she added.
She is equally concerned about the state of the existing equipment that she said needs repair and maintenance. But she was prepared to identify new equipment until she has had time to review the current situation.
TC: What’s IFPD’s mission? Is a long-range plan needed?
NL: Layton was very positive about undertaking a long-range plan for the department. She expects Fire Chief Patrick Reitz to engage the community in preparing a long-range plan.
“The department’s mission is first and foremost readiness to respond to emergencies that fall within its jurisdiction,” she said, “readiness to respond to critical issues within the context of adequate staffing and finances.”
She wants to ensure that firefighters are available anytime — day or night. “Right now we’re running very low in terms of staffing,” she opined.
Before concluding, Layton stressed that she intends to see a significant improvement in financial management at the district and has been trying to improve it while serving as financial consultant for the past two years.