Seal-Rock-Fire-District

Position 1

Larry Henson

What’s an issue the district faces that you hope to address first if you’re elected to the board of directors?

The safety and well being of district patrons, volunteers and staff. In order to accomplish this, the Seal Rock District must secure adequate funding, funding that will hire adequate staffing and provide them with reliable equipment in order to respond quickly with efficiency when called into service. The district is in need of a new fire engine, however, an engine can cost in excess of $375,000. Also, when called into service, the district must provide fully trained, certified and registered response personnel. A firefighter with an emergency medical technician license is almost impossible to find for less than $20 per hour, add the cost of insurance and PERS to that hourly rate and it becomes clear to provide the district with two firefighters per shift, seven days a week, 24 hour a day comes at significant cost.

Yes, some well meaning people have suggested the district gain more volunteers to cover staffing. In times past that might have been a suitable alternative, however, those days appear to be no more.

State mandated training certifications with registration has made gaining qualified volunteers almost impossible. Remember volunteers are just that, volunteers. How many volunteers do you know that are willing to train for six months in order to become certified and go through the registration process and keep up with the necessary training hours to meet their certification requirements? Plus then be willing to volunteer weekly for a minimum shift of eight hours, without pay? Also, how many willing volunteers do you know who can meet the basic skill requirements of hoisting a 70-pound ladder up to a two-story window, climb the ladder, go through the window, search and find a 100-plus pound mannequin, drag it back through the window and carry it safely down the ladder?

The current board is trying to effectively find an answer concerning the issue of volunteers and will continue to do so. The question is, would the public prefer to have a group of people respond (some of whom are their personal friends), each one arriving in their own vehicle who think they know what to do but have no training qualifications, no equipment and are physically unable to meet firefighter standards; or would the public prefer to know that when making a call for service, two on duty, trained and certified personnel are going to quickly respond with the proper equipment, ability and training to meet the need whatever that need may be.

Also complicating this issue further is that without properly certified and registered firefighter and emergency medical responders, the district will lose insurance and medical oversight coverage that will shut down the district’s ability to respond to calls for service entirely.

Are you satisfied with how the current board’s management of the district?

Yes, the current board has had to face several challenges brought on by past actions of other boards that were done in good faith, but without proper direction.

Do you think potentially merging with Central Oregon Coast Fire and Rescue and possibly Yachats into one fire district is an idea worth exploring?

Safety, reliability and quality of service are the main objectives of every fire district. If those objectives can be continued without merging, there will be no need for a merger. If those objectives cannot be met, then merging is inevitable.

Would you like to see changes made to district board meeting protocols, such as extending the time limit for public comment?

District board meetings are business meetings, and as such, should be held to proper meeting standards as according to Roberts Rules of Order. Currently, the standard for county public testimony is three minutes, and the Seal Rock District has adopted that option. There appears to be a disconnect where some individuals believe public comment is an additional item of agenda that can be added to the business of the meeting by the public, and then must be acted upon immediately. Effective boards do not make knee-jerk decisions. If a person or group desires more time to explain a concern, they can always contact board directors individually or request for an item to be placed on the next meeting’s agenda.

Paul Rimola

What’s an issue the district faces that you hope to address first if you’re elected to the board of directors?

There are a number of issues that need to addressed, too numerous to list here. This district needs paid firefighters, but it also needs volunteers. Volunteer recruitment and retention must be top priority as they work together with the current paid force. The district is down to one or two volunteers. Taxpayer resources are limited and should not be treated as an open checkbook. Long-term financial planning is essential to ensure spending is efficient and planned.

There is no reason to take 90 days to hire a paid firefighter (six months in one case). We pay a full time chief to maintain and hire firefighters and recruit volunteers in a timely manner. However, the ultimate responsibility is with this board, and they seem to be asleep at the wheel. The shortfall of personal this district has suffered is the fault of the board. We can, and must do better. No excuses.

Are you satisfied with how the current board’s management of the district?

If I was, I would not be running. The current board seems to insist members should be “team players,” which means “group think,” which I reject. The members of the board are servants of the residents and taxpayers, not the other way around.

Without a long-term monetary plan, the board discuses important issues from fixed assets (buildings), equipment and personal, as well as other expenditures with no roadmap and the results are predictable. I say that taxes are the last resort, not the first. Throwing money at a problem with no plan is not the answer.

Do you think potentially merging with Central Oregon Coast Fire and Rescue and possibly Yachats into one fire district is an idea worth exploring?

All ideas will be on the table, including this one. While talking with residents of this community I have heard a great number of ideas to help this district. To simply push one idea is silly and close-minded. Everything and all ideas will be put on the table for consideration. May the best idea win.

Would you like to see changes made to district board meeting protocols, such as extending the time limit for public comment?

This board is putting a stopwatch on all comments made to them. A three-minute rule to speak is insulting and arrogant and sends the message that the members of the board are the smartest people in the room. I would try and repeal that rule. This is a small district, and if any member of the board can’t put the time in to listen to the public, then they have no business being in that position. More input leads to more solutions.

It is one thing to say “we value public input,” and another to actually walk the walk.

Position 4

Mike Burt

What’s an issue the district faces that you hope to address first if you’re elected to the board of directors?

The main reason I am running for SRFD Board of Directors is to prove that volunteers are available and ready to serve the community. A team of volunteers can and will compliment the SRFD paid professionals.

Are you satisfied with how the current board’s management of the district?

I am not satisfied with board management. District resident taxes are not being utilized effectively. I see firsthand waste and inefficiency. Also, the board should do more to provide true transparency to taxpayers.

Do you think potentially merging with Central Oregon Coast Fire and Rescue and possibly Yachats into one fire district is an idea worth exploring?

All merger options should be continually monitored and considered by the board as tax saving and service level increase goals.

Would you like to see changes made to district board meeting protocols, such as extending the time limit for public comment?

My campaign statement states that the district taxpayers are the VIPs. If they are willing to attend the meetings, they should be given time to speak without a regulatory timer. A simple request like, “try to keep your comments brief” can go a long way to change the tone of a public meeting.

S D Skip Smith

What’s an issue the district faces that you hope to address first if you’re elected to the board of directors?

I believe the board has failed to educate the citizens about the need to rely more on paid personnel and less on volunteers. The days of expecting volunteers to subsidize local fire budgets is dwindling for several reasons. The role of volunteers must be examined, and the need for 24-hour career responders explained. Seal Rock has one of the lowest tax bases in the area with demand for services increasing. I disagree with those to say volunteers are the answer to maintaining expected response services. 

Are you satisfied with how the current board’s management of the district?

I believe the board has failed to educate the citizens about the need to rely more on paid personnel and less on volunteers. The days of expecting volunteers to subsidize local fire budgets is dwindling for several reasons. The role of volunteers must be examined, and the need for 24-hour career responders explained. Seal Rock has one of the lowest tax bases in the area with demand for services increasing. I disagree with those to say volunteers are the answer to maintaining expected response services. 

Do you think potentially merging with Central Oregon Coast Fire and Rescue and possibly Yachats into one fire district is an idea worth exploring?

I support the current intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with Central Oregon Coast and would look to including Yachats with the goal of Central Oregon Coast annexing Seal Rock and Yachats to form a district with a larger tax base and a more efficient organization chart to deploy emergency services. 

Would you like to see changes made to district board meeting protocols, such as extending the time limit for public comment?

I believe there is room for improvement by following rules of order and relying on the Seal Rock Fire District Strategic Plan as a guide for future work product. It is my opinion the current board has ignored this important tool. The current time limit for public input is adequate if those appearing before the board craft their input carefully and leave the personal vitriol out.   

Background: I am retired from a fire service career of nearly 40 years, with 20 of those a chief of department and was a director of the Bayshore Homeowners Association for one term.

David Oliver

What’s an issue the district faces that you hope to address first if you’re elected to the board of directors?

The main issue that faces the fire district is the lack of modern resources to maintain the expansion of EMS and fire-driven calls.

Are you satisfied with how the current board’s management of the district?

The current board is working positively towards the upgrading of the fire district.

Do you think potentially merging with Central Oregon Coast Fire and Rescue and possibly Yachats into one fire district is an idea worth exploring?

It’s worth exploring, however, more importantly is for these districts to share their resources (equipment, manpower), and continue with their automatic aid agreements.

Would you like to see changes made to district board meeting protocols, such as extending the time limit for public comment?

All business meetings should be kept to the business at hand. Extended comments tend to disrupt any meeting.

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