The Finance Committee work dominated the last Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s commission meeting. Besides reviewing financial reports and appointing a new citizen alternate to the committee, the commission plans to schedule a joint meeting or workshop with the committee before mid-January.

Finance Committee Chair and Commissioner Nancy Layton requested the joint meeting because “the committee members want to be sure that the work they are doing is in accordance with what the board agrees it wants the committee doing. We do not want to be seen as going off on our own, heading in directions the board does not approve.”

Layton asked that the joint meeting be open to the public and Commission President Jerry Buchanan agreed to set a date before the committee’s January meeting. (The Ralph M. Brown Act requires such a meeting to be open to the public.)

At the committee’s Nov. 18 meeting, Fire Chief Patrick Reitz shared that he wanted the committee to review and recommend two contract proposals — both financial issues — to the commission.

The first would be a possible revision of the contract for accounting services. The first contract was issued in July 2013 to Rob Dennis, a certified public accountant from Rancho Cucamonga. It will expire in June 2016.

The committee has expressed disappointment with the accuracy and timeliness of the financial reports for several months. It also leans toward letting the chief’s administrative assistant perform some of this work rather than contracting for it.

Reitz recommended the committee review the proposed request for financial services and submit a revised proposal to the commission for its January meeting.

He also recommended the committee review the current contract for audit services. The 2014-15 audit is still not completed, although Reitz said he had seen a draft. The current contract with Fedak and Brown was approved in May 2014 and still has a year remaining.

“Based on what we have experienced this year, the board should issue a new contract ahead of the end of this one” Reitz stated.

Layton also expressed concerns about the relationship with the auditor. “There were a series of things affecting our relationship with Fedak last year. This year another series of issues — administrative issues on their part,” she added. “We are willing to look at breaking the contract for this year and go with a new contract request.”

The commission unanimously, 3-0, approved the Finance Committee’s assignment to review, revise and recommend new proposals for finance services and audits. Commissioners Rhonda Andrewson and Larry Donahoo were absent.

The commission asked Reitz to evaluate whether IFPD might want to apply for grant funds from the State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fund. At its November 2012 meeting, the Commission approved a resolution opposing imposition of the $150 fee (only $115 if the property is within a local fire district such as Idyllwild). Buchanan wanted the commission to discuss whether IFPD should be involved in the program

“Should we apply and take a chance of getting an award? Should we apply for something we opposed?” he asked.

Members concluded that the grant categories covered work that would benefit the community and they ought to request some funding. Reitz indicated he would review the grant categories and prepare an application for the January submission date.

“I’ll set up a meeting with Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and the district because I think maintenance of fuelbreaks might be an area to consider,” he replied. He also said consideration would be given to expanding the availability of the grinding station for local residents.

Reitz also announced that Sherry Edwards has resigned as administrative assistant. He has offered the position to Sherry Ann Warren who he said has ably been acting in the position for several months.

Mark Lonsbury, who has attended several Finance Committee meetings, was the sole applicant for the vacant alternate position for the Finance Committee. He is a computer database consultant and worked extensively in the Midwest.