The Edwards Agency

Local News

Fire District begins strategic planning

strategic planning by Jeff Switzer
   WOODINVILLE--A panel of local residents recently sat down with a consultant for the fire district to help with its Strategic Planning process.
   The district let the Greater Woodinville Roundtable receive the names of those interested in serving on the panel, which included Catherine Howard (Roundtable, Lions), Rhonda McKim (Northshore Domestic Violence activist), Geoff Clayton and Northshore Youth Soccer Association President Dave Shipway (both active in locating soccer fields on the south bypass where the district bought land for a station), Beth Fox, Joe Rees, Andre Head (Chateau Ste. Michelle), Jim McNerney (former member of the recently disbanded Citizens Advisory Committee) and Kevin Coughlin, who ran for Fire Commissioner in 1995.
   The panel identifed and prioritized the services the district's, concluding that most important were qualified fire and medical personnel and a quick response, followed by an emergency plan, good equipment and an adequate depth of service if there is more than one incident in the district.
   Other concerns included fire education and code enforcement, honest dialogue with taxpayers, community involvement, and adequate water supply. The panel added cost-effective service, identifying customers with special needs, and use of technology.
   Ranking a district-prepared list of services, the panel placed priority on fire suppression, emergency medical services, disaster preparedness, and handling of hazardous materials. Following that list were public education, code enforcement and plan review, investigation services, CPR training, hydrant maintenance, non-emergency public assistance, the juvenile fire setter program, chaplain, and smoke detector installation programs.
   Chief Steve Smith noted that the panel's three lowest priorities were supported primarily by grants and donations of products and services, costing the district little or no money.
   The panel provided a list of compliments and concerns to the consultant, who then relayed them to the administration and Fire Chief.
   Among the concerns was the perception of turmoil on the fire board, accountability to the public, and technical expertise in purchasing equipment with taxpayer money. They had questions about the lack of a vehicle for citizen involvement, professionalism, consistency of fire inspections, the choice of the downtown site for a station, and long-term disaster preparedness.
   But kudos were given for cooperation with other jurisdictions, school fire education, participation in the community, utilizing consultants and attorneys to protect taxpayers' interests, and the high rating for the fire district.
   Excellent response times, financial accountability, excellent working relationship between labor and management, innovative ways of delivering services, and the feeling that the district is now beginning to tackle tough issues were among the issues receiving approval.
   Jack Snook, the consultant hired by the Fire District, said he felt the panel was very objective in identifying issues of concern and contributing ideason areas of improvement.