Letters to the Editor - May 16, 2011

Fire district top-heavy with managers

Woodinville Firefighters have been concerned over the last year and a half that the poor decisions being made by the current administration and board would move beyond simply damaging trust and confidence among district employees.

Eventually, we feared, bad policy decisions would have a direct and harmful impact on the services we are able to provide to the citizens of Woodinville and the surrounding communities.

Our fears are being realized.

Fire Station 34 in Kingsgate will be officially closing on June 1st, 2011 and if not for the actions taken by the firefighters, Engine 34 would have been placed out of service two weeks earlier on May 16th*.

Additionally, the office of Public Education is closing and the Fire Prevention Bureau has been eviscerated.

The leadership of Woodinville Firefighters Local 2950 presented reasonable options to continue coverage in Station 34’s response area after the annexation, but the chief and the board rebuffed them. We have also stressed the importance of public education and fire prevention to no avail.

Ironically, all this is happening during a time when the number of administrators at WF&R is being dramatically increased. The organizational chart that is being implemented resembles a big city fire department, not a small fire district.

When the staffing plan is complete and Station 34 is no longer open, there will be more office administrators than there will be firefighters on duty providing fire and emergency medical services to the community.

How is this possible? Well, for the first time in the fire district’s history, the fire chief has his own full-time personal executive assistant. Additionally, there are two deputy chiefs and there is a chief administrative officer as well.

An operations deputy chief is necessary in any fire department but what does the second deputy chief do when there is already a chief administrative officer? I’m not sure. Incidentally, the board of fire commissioners reorganized the fire district at the end of 2009 with the expressed intent to lower overhead costs and reduce the number of deputy chiefs to one. There are effectively three now, including the chief administrative officer.

In the finance division, the district has added a full-time finance manager in addition to the full-time payroll manager and the full-time accounts payable/receivable manager.

What does a full-time finance manager do at such a small organization that already has a fire chief to do the annual budget, and a payroll manager and an accounts payable/receivable manager that handle the day-to-day finances? I’m not sure, but he has been very helpful lately attending to maintenance needs such as replacing ceiling tiles, ordering light bulbs, and repairing oven doors. This should not last long, however, as the fire district has just hired a full-time maintenance person.

If this weren’t enough, a job posting has just recently been issued to hire a full-time emergency manager whose job duties will most certainly mimic work already being done by current employees.

There is also a plan in place to hire a full-time human resources manager apparently to assist the chief administrative officer. Each of these extraneous administrators cost nearly as much as a full-time firefighter and some of them cost more.

To top it all off, the fire district allows many of these administrators to flex their time and work from home since the board and the fire chief decided to close the administrative offices on Fridays.

So, dear public, if you have non-emergency business with the fire district, please come by or call Monday through Thursday. If you need direct contact with the fire chief, however, I honestly can’t say with any certainty when he will be in – please contact his executive assistant.

If you have an emergency, please dial 9-1-1. We will be honored to serve you. Unfortunately, if you are calling from 34’s response area outside of the City of Kirkland, we regret to inform you that we will be responding from an outlying station and therefore will be delayed.

Tony Woods,
Firefighter and E-board Member, Local 2950

*BOFC Meeting, May 2, 2011 – See Vimeo Link

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