December 15, 1997
WFLSD employee survey released
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--Fire commissioner Frank Peep says he will take comments from a recently released internal survey of Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District employees very seriously. "I think it's important information," the board chairman said last week. The survey, which measured the performance of the commissioners, fire chief and others against last year's survey, showed employees have a lack of faith in the direction of the five-member board of commissioners while confidence in the fire chief has risen. Firefighters and other staffers also want the district to normalize relations with the city and build the downtown station, according to the survey. And though the survey is non-binding, the commissioners will discuss it at their January 10 work session, Peep said.
The survey asked respondees to rate 120 statements on everything from the commissioners and fire chief to stress debriefings and physical fitness programs. Delivered to 72 employees of the district, 50 surveys were returned. The greatest decline from 1996 results appear to be linked to the commissioners. On a scale of one to five, five being high, one being rock bottom, the statement "The fire commissioners set high standards of performance by example" scored a 1.27, a drop of 2.35 from 1997. The query "The commissioners are leading the district in a fair and progressive manner" scored 1.41, down from 3.23 last year. The statements "Our organization believes in investing in the future" lost 1.63 points down to 2.00, and "I am proud to work here" dropped nearly a point to 3.71.
Over the past one-and-a-half years controversy has surrounded the commissioner's actions beginning with appointments and changes to the board last June, the resignation of Fire Chief Jim Davis last September and a recall petition. In contrast, firefighters and other staff believe Fire Chief Steve Smith is setting high performance standards by example (up 1.22 points to 3.78) and is leading the district in a fair, progressive manner (up 1.00 to 3.74).
Written comments echo concerns
Employees were also given the opportunity to provide written feedback on 10 other questions. In response to the question "Do you see any positive/negative changes made in the department since the last internal survey?" one employee wrote: "We are in a better state of affairs. Morale is better, trust is improving. Unfortunately, our commissioners are in a state of chaos."
While Peep said the survey only provided a "slice of time" emotional reaction from the employees, he said "still it must be examined very closely." "People deserve to be listened to and that's what we plan to do. They (the employees) are the life blood of this group," Peep said. On forging relations with the city, respondees keyed on building Station 32. "We need a station downtown and the staffing to properly equip it. To deny the city residents the response time they deserve and pay for is negligent," wrote one. In response to the question, "how can we improve the survey," one responded briefly: "Use it."
Commissioner Ben May, who serves on the city/fire district committee, was adamant that the relationship be patched up, noting that the city was the district's biggest customer. "It is our intention, and not just our intent, but what our result will be," May said. Peep said, "I'm more than confident something good will come out of the survey...My objective is to start getting opinions from my fellow commissioners." Chief Smith said that he would hold meetings with staff to address operations issues highlighted in the survey.