Sammamish dispute over fire service may be nearing conclusion

The years-long dispute between Sammamish, the Eastside Fire and Rescue service and its Board of Directors–dominated by Issaquah–may be nearing its conclusion.

Last week Issaquah’s City Council adopted a Resolution virtually identical to EFR partner Fire District 10 saying it will buy Station 83 if Sammamish leaves EFR, as it’s been threatening to do for several years because of a dispute over financial contributions to the District.

Station 83 is the one by Sunny Hills School on Issaquah-Pine Lake Road (at the roundabout). The station was built by the developer of Klahanie and became part of the City of Sammamish when we incorporated in 1999. Most of the fire and EMT calls from this station by far are within Klahanie, Providence Point and adjacent areas within Issaquah; few are within Sammamish, and this has been the rub with the Sammamish City Council, which says our taxpayers have been paying a disproportionate share of financial support to EFR.

But Issaquah’s representatives on the EFR Board, including City Councilman Fred Butler who is the favorite to win the mayoral race, have blocked every effort by Sammamish to adjust the financial formula to one based more closely on call volume than property assessment.

Until now.

The Issaquah City Council, in addition to expressing interest in buying Station 83 has agreed to adjust the formula somewhat, not to the full 50/50 assessment/call-based split Sammamish wanted but to an alternative 75/25 Sammamish suggested. Sammamish threatened to withdraw from EFR and close Station 83 if it did, saying it didn’t make sense for our taxpayers for a fire station making most of its calls outside our city. The prospect of closing the station raised hackles of Issaquah and Fire District 10 because of the downgrading of response time to Klahanie, Providence Point and those other areas of Issaquah served by Station 83.

This movement by Issaquah apparently was behind a decision by Sammamish to delay a recommendation expected from the City Manager to withdraw from EFR.

The whole EFR controversy is the underlying cause of poor relations between the Issaquah and Sammamish City Councils, which has evolved into disputes over the Klahanie annexation and the impact of withdrawing from EFR and closing Station 83; and the dispute between Issaquah and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District over Issaquah’s plan to inject stormwater near a well fed by an aquifer than serves about 60% of the city of Sammamish.

The Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter has an editorial that pretty well sums up the disputes and impacts.

Having lived here in Sammamish since before it was incorporated, I’ve watched Issaquah pretty well thumb its nose at us the entire time. Issaquah is a “Gimme City,” that has been unwilling to cooperate with other jurisdictions unless they concede everything Issaquah wants for nothing in return. The long-running fight over EFR is the worst example of the Gimme spirit exhibited by Issaquah.

The problem with the Resolutions adopted by the Issaquah City Council last week is that the city has a history of reneging on agreements, as I’ve pointed out. This is one of those Missouri moments: Show Me you’ll live up to what you say you’ll do, Issaquah.


Within minutes of posting the above, I received the following distribution from Harry Shedd, chairman of Citizens for Sammamish, a watchdog group.

From those supporting present system (FYI)…

On Monday evening, the Sammamish City Council discussed the final report that outlined the future of fire service for local residents. The city is leaning towards leaving Eastside Fire and Rescue and starting its own “bare bones” fire department, which will cost taxpayers more and lower the quality of emergency services that Sammamish families and businesses currently receive.
The final report was incomplete and raised more questions than it answered. Community testimony was substantial:

·         The fire chief for Mercer Island (who is also a Sammamish resident) expressed doubt about the cost analysis in the report. He runs a two station fire department for close to what Sammamish claims it will cost for three.

·         A retired fire chief said regional partnerships were more cost-effective and questioned why Sammamish was the only city in the state considering a standalone department.

·         A local elementary school principal asked the council why the study called for a community based fire service when this was something we already have, as evidenced by the safety and fire prevention programs in our public schools.

·         A firefighter pointed out that local residents rate their fire service as one of the top three city services according to the city government’s own survey from 2012. (City council was sixth!)

·         Even the city’s own consultants were quoted several times as saying they could not make a final recommendation on whether the city should start its own fire department.

We had a small victory by pressuring the city council to allow for additional public input on October 29, November 5, and November 12, when the final vote to leave Eastside Fire and Rescue will happen. All meetings begin at 6:30 pm and are held at City Hall at Sammamish Commons, 801 228th Ave SE. Please plan to attend and tell the Sammamish City Council to maintain the quality and cost-effective fire service we receive through Eastside Fire and Rescue

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