Governance issues are still a concern for members of Eastside Fire and Rescue, after they decided not to move ahead with a Regional Fire Authority.
The RFA would have meant a new tax system for the cities and districts involved. It would have also meant higher taxes for Issaquah residents.
The process, which lasted most of the year, fizzled when Issaquah pulled out of the discussions last month. District 10, which first formed EFR with Issaquah several years ago, followed quickly after.
Sammamish was never interested in the proposal, saying from the beginning that cities would have share an unfair burden of the costs.Issaquah City Council members wanted to see the final numbers, before rejecting the idea.
Part of the reason the RFA failed was because there were so many fingers in the pie, said Rick Gains, which chaired the RFA committee. “I think it probably is the future.”
Not everyone agreed.
EFR is now looking at becoming a nonprofit agency, said Ron Pedee, EFR Chair.
Shortly after the RFA group disbanded, members of the EFR board met to vent a list of concerns about how the organization is structured.What topped the list was the fact that while the EFR Board has the power to make recommendations, legally all of the power lies in the hands of one of five members.
Right now, Fire District 10 is considered the “employer of record,” which means legally all of the employee contracts and labor agreements are approved by District 10.
So far, an “employer of record” has never abused this power by going against the wishes of the EFR board, Pedee said, but “It’s an accident waiting to happen.
It puts them in a moral quandary of whether to be a good partner to EFR, or whether to listen to the voters, he said. “This would help us avoid a very predictable train wreck.”
The second major concern was that any one of the five board members can veto a proposal. Whereas typically a majority vote is taken.The benefit is that everyone agrees on the proposals. The downside is that the minority will always win.
Right now EFR, which also serves District 38 and North Bend, is run by an interlocal agreement. The current contract is up in a few years, but members are constantly discussing funding formulas, in particular the well-to-do Sammamish.
The goal is to address all these concerns with a new plan, before the current contract is up.
“We should fix it now,” Pedee said. “It would be irresponsible to not fix it now.”