Key Peninsula Fire Chief Guy Allen is relieved that the recent lid lift levy passed.
“That was a huge step forward,”he said. “It wasn’t a huge victory –– it was a 55 percent yes vote, but it was well in excess of the 50 percent that was required. That’s a positive statement, I think.”
With the levy’s passage, the department’s first task will be to replace the chassis of one of the ambulances. The project, called a “box remount,”requires transferring the ambulance’s “box”to a new chassis.
“The chassis we have has more than 200,000 miles so it’s time to replace it,”he said. “But we’re going to save about $60,000 by taking the box off of it and putting it on a brand new chassis, and not having to pay for a new box.
“We can do that for the next two units –– one in 2016 and one in 2019. After that we’ll have to buy a whole new medic unit, but that’s down the road a ways.”
Other work funded by the levy’s passage includes purchase of a new water tender in 2017 and a new fire engine in 2018. “Basically every year over the next several years there’s at least one vehicle that will be replaced,”he said.
Upgrades to several facilities are also planned and AlIen also wants to slowly build up the department’s reserve account.
Training is another key item, he said.
“Over the past several years we have kind of sliced our training budget down to the bare bones and I need to invest in our people, too.”
He plans to hire one new firefighter by the end of this year –– probably a paramedic “to replace the person we lost last summer who went to Everett. We’re short this person and when you’re short a person, you have to pay a lot of overtime.”
The passage of the lid lift levy is also a step in the right direction for future funding needs.
Allen wants the community to understand the department’s five-year plan. “I think it’s important that we’re telling everybody that for the next five years you’re going to see us do something. I think people deserve to know what’s coming.”
In 2016, there will be a need to renew the Maintenance and Operations levy. If that passes, there will not be any levies in 2017 or 2018, he said. “But in 2019, we’ll have to renew the EMS levy.”
There’s a chance, he said, that in 2020 there may not be a need for an M & O levy again. “If property values can come back in the four- to six percent range between the multiple year lid lift and renewing the EMS levy in 2019, there’s a chance that come 2020, we can say OK folks, finally we have the M&O levy off the books.”
Allen is working hard to help the fire department regain its credibility and earn the trust of the community.
“I think we’re making a difference here with our image in the community. We’re being a lot more transparent, especially with social media and with me being connected with the community with the groups I attend,”he said.
“I think people are beginning to trust us more. And that’s huge. We need to rebuild the community’s trust in us. I know that will take time, but every little bit helps.
“I take the responsibility of being the face of the organization to heart and I’m trying to get out there as much as I can. If anybody wants me to come and speak at their groups about anything, I’m very happy to do that,” Allen said.