Idyllwild Fire Department recently purchased a new engine from the Beverly Hills Fire Department for about $6,000. Here with the engine are (from left) Firefighter/EMT/Paramedic Eric Soles, Capt. Jim LaMont and Assistant Chief Mark LaMont.   Photo by JP Crumrine

During their workshop on the potential parcel fee and tax measure last week, Idyllwild Fire Protection District commissioners encountered a conundrum. 

Commissioner Ralph Hoetger raised the question, “Are we sure we want a ballot measure or something else?”

Based on his conversations with the Registrar of Voters Office, Assistant Chief Mark LaMont offered the commission two options.

They could continue down the current path to pass a resolution requesting that a ballot measure be placed before district voters, and explain its purpose and need to the voters. On election day, passage would require a two-thirds majority of those voting.

The second option, which LaMont described, depends upon citizen action, probably a group of voters, taking the initiative to raise the issue independent of the district. The citizen initiative would involve several steps.

The first would be to gather signatures from 10 percent of IFPD’s registered voters. According to the Registrar’s Office, there are 1,817 registered voters in IFPD. At least 182 valid signatures would be needed to place a measure, including taxes, on the ballot. 

However, LaMont suggested that if the group collected signatures from 50 percent of IFPD’s registered voters, a ballot measure might not be necessary. The board could review the proposal and vote to accept it, reject it or still place it on the ballot for the whole district’s verdict.

At its next regular meeting, Feb. 26, the commission hopes to decide which option is the direction it will take. 

President Jerry Buchanan began the discussion of the measure, “I’m convinced we need it. And $130 is not the ceiling but the floor. How do we sell it? And what do we do?”

Actually, the measure is a unit fee not a parcel fee. The latter would be a fixed amount for all parcels. The unit fee depends upon the size of the structure on the parcel and ranges from $32.50 to $260 for a few property owners. The overwhelming majority do pay the $65 annually.

When discussing the department’s emergency medical incidents, LaMont noted that he has heard some people allege that the department’s effort to establish “closest available unit” as the first call “… has been misconstrued that we’re trying to stretch our boundaries. To the contrary, 80 percent of those calls are for Idyllwild residents,” he stated. 

“What we do to protect our community is priceless,” commented Commissioner Rhonda Andrewson.

During the February meeting, the commission also will initiate a discussion on increasing its fees for reviewing proposals from developers. A decision on this issue will be made at the March commission meeting.

Buchanan appointed a committee composed of commissioners Larry Donahoo and Hoetger to meet and confer with the Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association.