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Down to the Wire
Twisp - Fire District 6 negotiations

photoTwisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody

The town of Twisp and Okanogan County Fire District 6 failed to reach agreement Wednesday on a contract for fire protection services for the town. The current contract expires December 31, 2012.

At the end off an evening of intense negotiations, town and fire district officials were roughly $7,000 apart; the fire district is asking for $41,000 per year. Town officials said they do not have the funds to meet the district’s demands for an increase in payment for fire protection next year.

Fire officials countered that the town is receiving fire protection service at less cost than Winthrop and residents of the county. In the name of “fairness,” those costs must be equal, fire officials argued.

Town council member Clay Hill proposed that the town be given credit in the contract for various fire-related costs it pays such as insurance on the town-owned fire hall building, the required vehicle maintenance fund for the town-owned fire truck that’s used by the district, and part of the salary of a secretary who handles fire-related paperwork. He said that after next year, the town is prepared to offer the district annual raises of 5 percent until Twisp reaches parity with other members of the fire district. “The gist of it is we want to make you guys happy,” said Hill.

Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said the town will be operating on $200,000 less next year because of expiring grants and recession-related loss of sales tax revenues and losses from liquor sales taxes; it has no reserves for its general fund. Because of its budget deficit, the state is keeping all liquor sales revenues, but for one year only, rather than distributing the funds among municipalities, she explained. “Please look at what we’re trying to show you,” she added. “We are not trying to short-change you.”

Council members indicated they would be willing to turn over to the district any unused vehicle maintenance funds at the end of the year. But they said they were not authorized to make further concessions without a vote of the full council, which will take up the fire district contract again in a special Monday meeting on the budget.

“We refuse to go into a deficit mode,” added council member John Fleming. “We can’t pay what you’re asking for now.”

photoRoy Reiber, Okanogan County Fire District 6 fire commissioner chairman.

“The only one that’s given anything here is us so far,” said fire commissioner chairman Roy Reiber. “We’re asking you to pay $41,000. We don’t think we’re gouging you.”

“Both of you [Twisp and Winthrop] are paying way under what we should charge,” added fire commissioner Darold Brandenburg. On November 15, the district withdrew a request for a 20 percent increase in its 2013 fire protection contract with Winthrop.

The fire district, which has purchased property for a new Winthrop fire station, recently announced that it has appointed an eight-member Citizen Advisory Council whose mission is “learn about Okanogan County Fire District 6; share information about district operations with other community members; and provide feedback to the Board of Fire Commissioners.”

The members were chosen on the basis of “demographic and geographic makeup of the fire district,” according to the district’s press release. They are: Gaylord Schank, Andy Hover, Ray Peterson, Mike Port, Liz Johnson, Ross Darling, Carolyn Goninger, and Phil Ager; the council also includes Reiber. So far the members have asked for information on the number of fire calls as well as for an itemized breakdown of the budget and the equipment replacement schedule, according to the district.

The citizen’s council will meet at 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month; meetings are open to the public.

The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. December 12 in the Winthrop Fire Station, and Fire Chief Don Waller will present details of the 2011 and 2012 budget.


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