SKFR OKs another levy attempt

Fire district accepts $500,000 FEMA grant to help pay for a new ladder truck.

The South Kitsap Fire and Rescue commissioners recommended Thursday that Chief Wayne Senter move forward with a plan for the district’s next Emergency Medical Services levy in 2009.

After the unanimous vote, Senter said his staff would move ahead and begin the “real work.

“It’s never easy, and the hard work is ahead of us,” he said.

So far, two options are on the table for the potential six-year levy, which would raise $11.9 million and add 24 firefighters to the district’s ranks. The difference between the two, according to Senter, is that one involves building a brand-new fire station in Manchester, while the other would require remodeling an existing one.

“Option 1 assumes we receive a SAFER grant (to help pay the salaries of the new staff members) and therefore have enough money to build a new facility,” Senter said, explaining that option 2 assumes that the district did not receive the grant and would therefore remodel the existing volunteer station in Manchester instead.

The district has identified a site in Manchester for a new station, and Senter said that borrowing $5 million at 5-percent interest would cover purchasing the property, constructing the new building and acquiring both a new tender and new EMS unit.

According to the numbers Senter prepared, paying off the loan would require annual payments of nearly $400,000 for 20 years.

Since the deadline for next year’s SAFER grants has already passed, Senter said his district has already applied in anticipation of the levy passing, as it did for its last successful levy.

Both options for the new levy would add a total of 24 new firefighter/EMTs by 2013.

A grant that isn’t in doubt for the district is one for $520,000 presented by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Thursday as part of its Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program.

Mike Howard presented the check to board president Paul Golnik after congratulating the grant writer, Battalion Chief Eric Quitslund, on successfully earning the money in an extremely competitive process.

Quitslund attributed the grant being awarded to “a number of things,” including that SKFR has a demonstrable financial need and the grant program itself, which he said was a “tremendous value to the community.”

According to FEMA’s Region 10 Administrator Susan Reinertson, the AFG program is designed to help fire departments and emergency medical service organizations fund training, conduct first responder health and safety programs and buy equipment and response vehicles. This grant for South Kitsap is designated to help the fire and rescue agency with the purchase of a new ‘quint aerial apparatus’ ladder truck.

According to Wikipedia, a quint, or quintuple combination pumper, is a “fire service apparatus that is both an engine and ladder truck that serves five purposes: pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.”

Quitslund said the fire district has struggled over the years with many equipment issues, most stemming from the fact that it comprises several districts — each with its own old equipment — that merged into one.

Now that the district received the grant, it can retire its 26-year-old ladder truck.

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