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.
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.