Lacey firefighters frustrated over city/district split

April 27th, 2009 by Ken

I had a meeting today with three members of the Lacey Professional Firefighters Union.  They wanted to talk about the current contract problems between the City of Lacey and Lacey Fire District 3.

I told them from the get-go that I didn’t approve of government unions and they told me they knew that; so we started out on a fair footing.

Alex Christiansen, secretary of the union, told me that they are frustrated in their efforts to get their point of view out.   He said they wanted to meet with community leaders and get their ideas on what they should do.

I told him that one of the worse things they could do, was try and recruit people to run against the incumbent members of the Lacey City Council who are up for re-election.  I said they wouldn’t beat them and it would just make the incumbents upset and more strident in their positions.

The union thinks the fire commissioners haven’t done a very good job of educating the public and they have a few ideas of their own.

They favor a Regional Fire Authority, which would combine the city and the fire district into one agency.  The voters would determine the make up of the governing body through a public vote.

For more than a decade, I’ve favored annexing the city into the fire district.  It’s a simple, quick and easy way to provide fire servcices for everyone.  There would be an increase in cost for city residents which would have to assume the district’s debt, but it isn’t significant.

The firefighters union said they could support such an annexation.

We both know it will be a long battle, and I’ve told them, that I need to wait and see what Lacey City Manager Greg Cuoio comes up with in his efforts to start his own fire department.   I’ve told Greg that I won’t do anything until I see his plan.   It’s anticipated that the city’s consultant will have a report to the city manager in the next couple of weeks.

The firefighter’s union pointed out that in the recent past, 16 Washigton cities have eliminated their own fire departments and have joined some type of fire authority.   Five other cities are currently in the process of doing away with their city departments.

“Only one city is looking at starting its own fire department,” they said, “Lacey.”

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