Jean Marie Christenson with WA. Gov. Christine Gregoire
Photo courtesy of Ms. Christenson
Guest Entry from JeanMarie Christenson:
Today I am sharing with you about a meeting I had with Fire Chief Rita Hutchenson in regard to the upcoming Levi for Fire District 4, and some of the brainstorming ideas that came out of our meeting.
Fire Chief Rita Hutcheson has done a stellar job of championing her cause on behalf of the Fire Department. I don’t think any Candidate-for-office could say they were out more than Rita enlisting support for issues. I shared with Rita that I would like to see a more affective way to bring funds to our Fire District then have been traditionally used. I would like to get away from a bandaide approach and see if we could find more long term solutions.
Listed here are some of the ideas I’ve been thinking about and shared with Rita at our meeting:
(1) The Lottery was originally presented to the voters as a means to support schools. In the end however, the money was not used specifically for schools but instead went into the General Fund.
Question: Are Fire Districts able to tap into that fund, or make application in some way to be supported by that fund?
(2) Developers and impact fees: Developers should be helping to relieve the stress brought by their projects to the local area with impact fees substantial enough to absorb this burden, including that on Fire Districts. It is my understanding that impact fees are used by the Fire Department for equipment only…but wouldn’t that be a substantial help when we are taking about tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars in needed equipment?
(3) Could City, County, District and State General Funds all help?
(4) I asked Rita if different Fire Districts supported each other? It seems to me a system of Sister-Districts (like certain cities have sister-cities) could be helpful because not every Fire District is short of funding, and some are actually quite flush. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Districts could be supporting each other, or perhaps there could even be a Statewide Fire-District-General-Fund?
(5) Of course, individual contributions, and local events to raise money for the Fire Department are always fun, and a great way to get citizens involved directly at the same time.
(6) Also, with the numerous projects the Capital Budget helps to fund, could some money be allocated from that source? Certainly local Fire Department facilities could greatly benefit from Capital Budget funding.
(7) And, it seems to me, the single most helpful thing that could happen for Fire District 4 is a 24 hour Medical Emergency
Facility in Yelm or Rainier. 80% of our Fire District’s funds are spent on response to Medical and Health Care urgencies/emergencies.
If the burden were taken off of the funding needed to respond to these situations with a local Medical Emergency Facility, those funds would be freed up for other Fire District needs … and again…we are talking about 80% of Fire District 4’s available budget. I know Representative Tom Campbell has supported the idea of a Medical Emergency Facility in our area for some time, and I think it is time we step forward and ask the State to fund this project.
While it is clear that Fire District 4’s need for funding is immediate I feel we should additionally look for long term support systems and resolutions that will work into the future. I know that Fire Chief Hutcheson agrees.
1st Vice Chair, Democratic Party
Legislative District 2
& Precinct Committee Officer
Weir Prairie Precinct 128 (near Rainier)
Logo from Citizens for Fire Protection website