Deal to save EFR nearly finished

December 18, 2013

By Sherry Grindeland

New: Dec. 18, 12:24 p.m.

The Eastside Fire and Rescue Board did everything except sing “Auld Lang Syne” at its Dec. 12 meeting.

The board unanimously voted to accept the proposed funding model changes. That was followed with a unanimous vote to approve a revised EFR governing agreement. They even took a short break during the meeting to celebrate with glasses of sparkling cider and holiday cookies.

After months of vociferous disagreements over funding issues, the group joked and teased one another.

EFR is a consortium of Sammamish, Issaquah, North Bend and Fire Districts 10 and 38 that pools resources to provide fire prevention services.

Sammamish leaders had been exploring other fire service options, including opening its own fire department. The main issue was funding, which currently is based strictly on assessed value. Sammamish leaders have said that model leads to them contributing a disproportionate amount toward the partnership.

Sammamish asked the EFR board to change the funding to be based in part on the number of calls for service.

Because meetings became so rancorous, EFR Fire Chief Lee Soptich recommended hiring a facilitator to help the board set goals and priorities.

In November, an ad hoc committee was formed to hammer out an acceptable funding model. A second committee was to update the interlocal agreement and clarify details surrounding assets owned by the various members.

The new funding model will be generally based 85 percent on assessed value and 15 percent on incidents. The interlocal agreement largely clarified parts of the existing agreement. Although it still has to be reviewed by the various entities legal advisors, the board approved the revised document. Both the interlocal agreement and the new funding breakdown will take effect in January 2015.

At the end of the meeting, Sammamish City Councilman Ramiro Valderrama, who represents Sammamish on the EFR board, thanked everyone.

“There will be no surprises from the Sammamish Council,” Valderrama said. “All our issues have been addressed.”

 

Sammamish talks

A few days earlier, at the Sammamish City Council’s Dec. 10 meeting, Councilman Don Gerend explained that the other partners had agreed to all of the changes suggested by Sammamish. Gerend represented Sammamish on the negotiating committee.

Sammamish had gone in with a laundry list of items that it wanted changed in the agreement that underpins EFR. They had expected the other partners to do the same, but no one else had any proposed changes, Gerend said. Largely, the changes amounted to small, technical adjustments, which clarified points in the existing agreement.

The one change of greatest substance is an adjustment to voting on the budget. Under the new model, no single partner could veto the budget. Under the old model, District 10 could have done so, although they never made a move to.

Valderrama was pushing the council to vote to accept the agreement even before the EFR board finalized it.

He was, however, overruled. The rest of the council wanted to wait for a final agreement, and to allow their attorney time to review it.

If there are no problems, Sammamish, and the other partners could each end up approving the new agreement either this month or in early January. If everyone does so, it will be in place for seven years.

 

Sammamish Review Editor Ari Cetron contributed to this story.

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