Northwest NEWS

March 12, 2001

Editorial

I am Monique Courtion. I am a businesswoman who lives in Woodinville today. This week I took the time to investigate an article written by former Woodinville Fire Commissioner David Callon.
   The article was in the Woodinville Weekly of Feb. 27. The letter concerned Woodinville Fire District budgets. I am writing because I am confused as to his intent after I read his letter to the editor.
   I believe his opinion is that the problem in Woodinville was the budget of the Woodinville Fire District. I also believe that he was upset with the other commissioners because of their voting to ignore the spending limitations of voter-approved Initiative 722. He seemed to think that there was an over-all extravagance in the fire district. I believe this to be his point.
   His statements included reference to the high cost of Woodinville's property taxes. This is what forced you out of your home? I found it difficult to believe that all these reasons that you had stated in the letter to the editor to be why you left Woodinville. So I did some research myself.
   The following information that I have included in this letter to the editor I found from speaking to King County, interviewing fire department personnel and driving to the fire stations to see for myself.
   Mr. Callon left Woodinville six months ago and went to Oregon. His statement that his taxes were increased 23 percent implies that his entire King County bill was increased by this amount.
   What I know to be true is that the fire district's operating budget was increased less than 9 percent. The balance of the increase was to replace unplanned costs of major structural repair on two fire stations.
   This was the reason for the declaration of required need by the commissioners (referred to as Referendum 47) and why the district put the $500,000 into this reserve account. This money was used for repairs on the damaged stations.
   Through the access of public information I have also found that the bulk of the operational cost at the Woodinville Fire District budget increase is a result of salaries. Reviewing commissioners' meeting minutes I saw it was necessary for the district to hire additional firefighters. It was also necessary to pay our firemen and fire personnel a fair salary for the jobs they do for our district. During the Saturday commissioners' review you were absent. You also missed several Tuesday commissioners' meetings that were specific to the new budget. You were absent from these meetings because you were campaigning for King County tax assessor.
   You also attended a Woodinville council meeting on your concerns of the budget. The mayor and the council looked into your concerns.
   The council found that the budget was correct and necessary for the district. So why now are you writing these discouraging letters to us the citizens about our fire district?
   You reference that the new headquarters building in Woodinville is only one mile from the current Fire District Headquarters 31. I find this not to be true and also to be irrelevant. Our city needed to have their fire district close to the downtown core area.
   This is where most of our senior citizens live. This is where the major population of Woodinville works and plays. The new fire headquarters is located by the Woodinville Post Office.
   You go on to mention that the new station will cost $6 million. You do not mention anywhere in your letter that the Fire District sold the existing Headquarters Station 31 for approximately $2 million. This money will be applied to the costs of the new station under construction.
   You state that the fire stations have cable TV and satellite TV. There are three fire stations that have cable TV. The cable is provided to the Fire District free of any charge. You are aware of this but your letter makes it sound as if the district has been extravagant. The current headquarters' building at 144th NE, Station 31 (which has been sold) has only satellite TV. This is required for their EOC (Emergency Operation Center).
   Your reference to the bike team and firefighters confused me. I asked why is it important for our firefighters to ride bikes? I found out that bikes are the best form of transportation where there are concerts or parades with large gatherings of people. The firemen have to be able to perform with the ability to maneuver in tight areas around large groups of people. It makes me proud that our district thinks of safety first.
   I would like to conclude this letter to the editor with why I feel strongly that Mr. Callon must have a vendetta for the Woodinville Fire District.
   I say this because I found all your statements to be written in ways as to confuse the average citizen with half-truths. The Woodinville Fire District and the fine men and women that work for the district have made it possible for me to be writing the letter today. The Woodinville Fire District firemen saved my life in October 1999. The fact that they were strong, fast and highly skilled was what made the difference between life and death for me. It is my opinion that Fire Chief Steve Smith and our fire district commissioners know what they are doing when it comes to managing the budgets for the district. The team at the Woodinville Fire District, both men and women, are the best in Washington. I feel we should give them what they need to do their job.
   Monique Courtion, Woodinville