Save Our Fire Dept website launched; how about advocating fair and balanced financial contributions, too?

Update, 4pm Oct. 28: The Eastside Firefighters issued a press release today accusing the City of Sammamish of violating the Open Meetings Act, holding meetings outside of the public process on the EFR issue. The press release is below the jump.

Original Post:

A new website called SaveOurFireDept.org has been launched to take on the City of Sammamish and its plan to leave the Eastside Fire and Rescue service.

A decision is supposed to be made Nov. 12. Another City Council meeting is tomorrow night.

This is an enormously controversial subject, with plenty written in the Sammamish Review and Issaquah/Sammmamish Reporter, as well as on this blog. Typically, the City of Sammamish has muffed its messaging on why, in detail, it’s considering leaving.

It comes down to a couple of simple issues:

  • Sammamish taxpayers are and have been paying a disproportionate share to fund EFR since incorporation. In recent years, this amounts to about $500,000 per year. Do the math: $2.5 million in over-payments in the last five years. This ain’t chicken feed.
  • Station 83, also known as the Klahanie Station, is at the heart of the matter. This station is on Issaquah-Pine Lake Road by the round-about. It was built by the developer of Klahanie (hence its unofficial name) when King County approved the project. Station 83 also serves Providence Point and several other areas in nearby Issaquah and areas adjacent Klahanie that are in the Issaquah Potential Annexation Area. A majority of the calls from the Station go to Issaquah and the Klahanie PAA, but Issaquah only contributes 6% of the funding toward Station 83’s operation.
  • Sammamish has been trying for several years to get the funding adjusted on a more equitable basis. EFR members, led by Issaquah, have consistently refused.
  • It’s after years of effort and constant rebuffs that Sammamish has reached this point of preparing to leave EFR.
  • There are other issues as well. At one point the EFR members pondered extending EFR to Snoqualmie Pass. Sammamish would wind up subsidizing part of this. There is also a plan to build buildings and a new fire training tower (despite use of the one off I-90 east of North Bend), at a great cost.

I appreciate the obviously organized effort, largely backed by firefighters, it appears, to lobby the Sammamish City Council to stop them from leaving EFR. The service is good and there are obvious synergies by being a member of EFR that would be absent should Sammamish withdraw.

But why aren’t these same people showing up at the Issaquah City Council, and those of other EFR members, to lobby them for a more equitable split of funding? This, fundamentally, is what’s at stake–and Sammamish has tried for years without success to adjust the funding. Issaquah is the principal roadblock.

The SaveOurFireDept crowd doesn’t have any contact or meeting information, or a call to arms to descend on other city councils, whose obstinance is a key issue that has driven Sammamish to this point.

If SaveOurFireDept wants to truly do so, it needs to lobby more than Sammamish. It needs to lobby the EFR members and show up at the EFR Board and lobby it, too.

Continue reading “Save Our Fire Dept website launched; how about advocating fair and balanced financial contributions, too?”

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.

Addendum:

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

Issaquah Press rebukes city again, says Klahanie should annex to Sammamish

The Issaquah Press, which condemned the Issaquah government over its cybersquatting of the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District websites, rebuked the city again when it editorialized that the Klahanie area should annex to Sammamish.

The same editorial appeared in the sister newspaper, The Sammamish Review.

The Boundary Review Board Thursday night approved Issaquah’s request to proceed to an annexation vote for Klahanie. Members commented about some of the public testimony in opposition to the annexation and about issues related to water and sewer and fire service, but concluded that these “emotional” arguments and inter-governmental agency disputes were not germane to the annexation itself. Essentially, the BRB concluded there was no legal reason to deny the request. In the end, the BRB took the position, “let the voters decide.”

The vote is scheduled for February.

Sammamish Landing additions have $2m price tag

Improvements to the recently-opened Sammamish Landing park on the lake at the far north end of the city have a price tag of almost $2 million, according to this article in The Sammamish Review.

This is an eyebrow raising figure.

The two docks there cost more than $500,000. The park is a nice little addition to the adjacent trail, and after it officially opened, I routinely observed a lot of cars along the Parkway for patrons.

But another $2 million? This is a lot of money.

A parking lot is absolutely needed. Port-a-potties can suffice, reducing the cost by a half-million. This leaves the cost of the improvements at $1.5m, still an eye-popping number. A good portion of this is  federally-required ADA access. I can’t help but wonder if some volunteer work can’t be applied here, as it was for Evans Creek Park. Just a thought.

But the suggestion by some on the City Council that Redmond or King County should kick in money because their residents use the park is a bit cheeky. As City Manager Ben Yacizi points out, our residents use parks in Redmond and King County and don’t pay to do so (other than general taxes to King County and a parking fee of $1 for Marymoor Park).

Sammamish Landing originally was owned by Redmond, as land-banking for the eventual day when Redmond annexed the north end of the Plateau. After we incorporated, Redmond signed over the land to Sammamish. I don’t recall if it was a free transfer or if Sammamish bought the land, but I seem to remember it was free or a nominal payment (this may be incorrect).

I think it would be chutzpah for Sammamish to ask Redmond to kick in money, especially if my memory is correct. A stronger argument might be made to approach King County, since this amenity enhances the trail, which is owned by the County. Maybe improvements to the Landing can be a part of the paving of the trail that is commence next year, with the county kicking in a contribution of some level. But don’t ask Redmond. I think it has already been more than generous.

 

Issaquah to Klahanie in 2010: We can’t support your parks and we’re fine with giving them away

As Klahanie residents await a decision from the state Boundary Review Board whether to allow an annexation vote into Issaquah next February, it’s useful to recall that as recently as 2010, Issaquah said it didn’t have the funds to maintain the parks in the area.

Though Klahanie is in the City of Issaquah’s Potential Annexation Area (PAA), they too have said they don’t have the money to maintain the park,” the Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter detailed.

The paper also wrote, “At a joint meeting of the Issaquah and Sammamish city councils on Tuesday night, councilors had their first close look at the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was drafted by King County some months ago, and states ‘the parties acknowledge that the City of Sammamish has the resources and infrastructure to maintain this facility at the current or higher level of service… and agree that it is in the best interest of the general public for King County to transfer Klahanie park to Sammamish.'” (Emphasis added.)

Even Issaquah City Councilman Fred Butler took note of the Sammamish’s willingness to step up, according to the paper.

“I think it should be noted that it was Sammamish who stepped forward with a solution when one was needed,” Issaquah Councilmember Fred Butler said.

It’s three years later, and there is no indication that Issaquah is in a better financial condition to provide services that Klahanie needs. It’s also worth noting that Issaquah was fine with giving away Klahanie’s parks three years ago, which of course raises questions just how committed the Issaquah City Council is to Klahanie–or whether it wants Klahanie for what Klahanie brings to Issaquah, not what it can do for Klahanie.

Highest cost estimate on Community Center a big concern

The news that the proposed Sammamish/YMCA community center is already $4m over the price presented to voters is a real concern.

With only 30 percent of the project designed, city officials hope that when 60% is designed, costs will be fined-tuned and closer to the $30m taxpayers were told this project would cost.

I’m not so sanguine.

Buildings and construction projects seem to have a habit of gaining costs. Unknown unknowns can add to the cost. Project delays can increase the cost. Any number of things can do so.

Based on the Sammamish Review article linked above, it sounds like the City Council is pretty much going to bite the bullet and move ahead with a shrug of the shoulders (to mix metaphors).

This project started out as a $64m Taj Mahal. I sure hope it doesn’t have design creep that drives up the cost even more than it is coming out of the box.

Why Issaquah can’t be trusted, Part 3: City reneged on signed MOU transferring Klahanie PAA to Sammamish

I’ve previously written Part 1 and Part 2 about why Issaquah can’t be trusted. Here’s another reason, Part 3: Issaquah reneged on a May 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Sammamish that would have transferred the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area to Sammamish from Issaquah.

Mayor Ava Frisinger signed the MOU on May 6, 2002, attested to by Marcia Conon, the city clerk, and “Approved as to Form” by Wayne Tanaka, the city attorney.

Four months later, in September, Issaquah reneged.

This timeline is outlined in a submission by Sammamish to the Boundary Review Board, which is holding a public meeting tonight on Issaquah’s request to authorize an annexation vote in February.

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The Boundary Review Board holds its public hearing Wednesday, September 18, 2013, at 7pm at the Holiday Inn in Issaquah.

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Here is a download of the MOU: Klahanie MOU

The MOU’s reasons are clearly stated: with Sammamish, then a newly incorporated city, having better proximity and more contiguous boarders, among other reasons, Frisinger and Sammamish City Manager Ben Yacizi, who signed the MOU for Sammamish, agreed that Klahanie should go to Sammamish.