League of Women Voters Observer Corps notes on fire district meeting

Submitted by the League of Women Voters Observer Corps

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization, encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members.

SJI Fire District, regular meeting of Feb. 13

A citizen requested, and the commissioners agreed, to work towards having a Zoom option for remote attendance at future meetings.

The commissioners described the process they used to negotiate the professional services contract for the new chief, which was done in a public session and then reviewed by an attorney, who added clarifying language. The Commission approved the contract and then installed Noel Monin as the new chief. Monin said that the contract negotiation process was novel for the Fire District, but that the transparency was a healthy development. The Commissioners explained that as part of the process they have restructured staffing, eliminating the assistant chief position, increasing the chief’s responsibilities, and creating a committee of department leaders to oversee key the running of the district and ensure continuity.

Monin reviewed substation leases and was renegotiating the leases with Brown Island and Cape San Juan and would have discussions with another. The Commissioners requested a list of agreements and contracts that renew automatically. The Commission renewed the Interlocal Agreement with Orcas and Lopez fire districts for using the reserve engine. The Chief asked the commission to think about scheduling a special session to discuss a strategic plan. They agreed to April and the Chief will gather information and propose some dates. The Commission will use this to decide about a levy lid lift or a correction on the November ballot. The deadline is Aug. 6.

The County is correcting the final numbers for FY 2023. The Chief recommended amending the 2024 budget to reflect the correct beginning balances when available. The difference will be small. Total assets are $556k total with a $294k unencumbered general fund balance.

The district agreed to provide services to the outer islands of Henry, Stuart, John’s, Pearl, and Crown. Each now has active community members; the fireboat will be used to get SJI fighters to the islands. They need to establish an equipment cache on each island and organize local transport to fire locations. The district will repair the drains at the Bailer Hill station but is waiting for the State Department of Ecology to clean up the Hannah Heights well. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will update the commissioners on Hannah Height’s legal issues in an executive session.

The Annual Firefighters Awards and Recognition Banquet will be Friday, April 12. San Juan County Chief’s Association which includes all fire chiefs and marshals, the sheriff, EMS, and the county emergency manager has been inactive but may start meeting again. The Washington State Review Board which evaluates and rates fire protection by area which is used to set home insurance rates will evaluate San Juan Island this summer.