City looks at Fire District
by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--The City Council last week began the process of evaluating its relationship with the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District.
City Manager Joe Meneghini, acting as project manager, submitted a draft proposal and scope outline for the study, to include a background report on current services, fact-finding regarding trends, changes in the law and the "effectiveness of district operations," and evaluation of alternatives for the city. The City Council approved the scope of work and authorized a search for consultants.
"As a city, we're always looking for effective ways to deliver municipal services, from fire to police to road maintenance, and what's the best vehicle for doing that," Meneghini said. "There was a conscious decision made [regarding fire service] three, four years ago; we'll be looking at whether it is a good decision today."
Upon incorporation, the city had annexed into King County Fire District 36 (the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District), which serves as its own taxing district, collecting taxes for fire and emergency services. Present alternatives include remaining annexed to the district, establishing a city department, or contracting for services, either with District 36 or an adjoining service provider or a contracting service company. If the city chooses a new option in which it doesn't contract or remain annexed to the fire district, the tax revenue would go to the city to provide the services.
Meneghini said each of the alternatives in the draft proposal would be evaluated based on level of service, proportion of costs to calls in the city, the city's ability to manage and control the delivery and costs, financial consequences of each alternative, impact to other city operations, and capability for future innovation.
Project costs were stated as unknown due to the "specialized nature of this undertaking, the urgency of it, and the city's lack of familiarity in conducting such a unique study."
Meneghini told the council that Everett, Bellevue, and Issaquah have undertaken similar studies, each with varying needs, but all with the goal of being cost-effective and providing quality services.
Councilmember Lucy DeYoung said the study will show what areas the city wants to work on and will possibly help develop an even better working relationship with the fire district. "I see nothing but good things coming out of this," she said.
Mayor Bob Miller said the city is on track with this type of evaluation. "I think this is really timely," he said. "We were charged by the people to provide the best service, and we want to continue to provide the best services possible. This is just a good check and provides a benchmark for the city."