Northshore Fire Department receives contracts for services

Fire Commissioner Dave Maehren has asked for a seven-year contract with a three-year out clause. Courtesy photo

By Meghan McLaughlin

On September 15, the Northshore Fire Department (NFD) began considering two fire departments to operate NFD under a long-term contract for administrative, fire marshal, and fire and emergency medical services: Eastside Fire & Rescue and Shoreline Fire Department (SFD).

Fire Commissioner Dave Maehren is hopeful an agreement can be reached.

“I think both agencies are strong agencies,” Maehren said. “We’re so fortunate that every fire department in our area is an excellent fire department. There are no weak departments. In fact, we rely on the agencies around us for mutual aid and. We’re agencies of equal strength, so when we come to help each other, we know we can rely on the other units to do what they’re supposed to do in a professional way.”

Maehren went on to say that many citizens are not aware that mutual aid is something that already happens between departments. Many times, multiple departments will go to a call together, depending on the event type. He said that dispatch automatically sends a certain number of units to an event and many agencies don’t have enough stations and personnel to fill those requirements.

“What happens is we all respond as a team through mutual aid,” Maehren said. “In that way, citizens can be assured that they’re going to get a reliable service response.”

Beyond responding to events together, SFD, Woodinville Fire & Rescue, Bothell Fire Department and NFD formed the North King County Training Consortium a year and a half ago. All four agencies receive the same training through the program.

This attempt to contract for services differs from the merger vote that failed in May. According to Maehren, the two agencies, the boards, and all the agencies’ assets combine to create one agency with a merger.

When two agencies enter under a contract for services, each agency retains its commissioners, maintaining local control. The boards establish the level of service, the tax rate and keep all agency assets, including buildings, apparatus, equipment and reserve funds.

The contracting agency then oversees the administration of the operations of the district, Maehren said. A contract for services has a term limit, and after that contract, the agencies can seek other options if they are unsatisfied with the outcome.

The contracting agency will also go to the NFD board and review their performance twice a year. This evaluation measures contract metrics as well as the goals for response times.

“The public should see no change in the level of service delivery initially because we’re asking for equal or better service,” Maehren said. “The one thing that is likely to change is we expect significant cost savings. With those cost savings, the board will have options of how they want to use them. The board could use them to provide extra service or could use them to reduce the tax rate or combine the two. Those decisions will be made after the first of the year after the election.”

Maehren said NFD has asked for a seven-year contract with a three-year out clause. He explained the reasoning for that duration was the initial expenses that come with the process. The three-year out clause ensures the contracting agency has time to organize things if it were was to pull out.

The board is hoping to ratify a contract for services by October 15.

Maehren said that although the NFD board makes the ultimate decision of commissioners, the department is making strong outreach efforts to educate community members and receive their input.

“One of our biggest goals is to let the public know what’s going on,” Maehren said.

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