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Vote ‘yes’ for SJI Fire-EMS | Guest column

By Adam Greene.

As a full-time resident, voter, taxpayer, and volunteer EMT and firefighter, I’ll be voting to approve Fire District #3 Prop 1 on Nov. 2nd.

This is not a new tax, but rather replaces the Public Hospital District’s EMS levy that expires at the end of 2022. The PHD EMS levy was assessed at $0.50/$1,000 when last renewed in 2016, which is the same amount as this proposition. We won’t be billed twice! This measure allows for the seamless continuation of emergency services, but now coordinated under a single agency.

I’m thrilled at this possibility for a few reasons:

SJI Fire has shown themselves to be prudent stewards of our money. As a responder, yes, I’ve wished during the 100+ nights I’ve been on shift during this covid pandemic that the department had splurged for nicer mattresses 20 years ago. Yet, in all seriousness, I appreciate the care SJI Fire takes with our money in every aspect of operations. The volunteers, officers, and staff take pride in maintaining buildings, grounds, and equipment, always striving to ensure safety and efficacy while avoiding expenditures that don’t translate directly to better results for our community.

Our fire department last requested an adjustment to the fire services levy over 15 years ago. Since then, they’ve made significant improvements in training; medical, marine, and fire services; educational outreach; and community risk reduction like Firewise. The Washington State Rating Bureau has recognized these improvements and downgraded fire risk in our district, which translates into lower home insurance costs. And despite a higher call volume, including more responses to outer islands in our district, we are achieving better outcomes. Just in the past year, patients have consistently received help in less than 10 minutes from 911 dispatch notifying emergency services, which is a 43% improvement from 2018. That is an average time of 9:54 minutes for a first responder team to reach you, whether the call is 30 seconds away from the station near town, requires a boat ride to an outer island, or is during a snowstorm at 2 a.m.

Whatever the nature of the call, emergency responses require tightly coordinated teamwork. That is what taxpayers should demand, and as volunteers and staff, that is what we want to provide. Your responders from both agencies put you first, but the collaboration isn’t seamless, and it isn’t the best we can do. How can it be when we have two separate organizations with different rules, training, operational practices, and administrative structures? That is why all of the other districts in our county and surrounding counties use combined, all-hazard emergency services, and have for years, rather than allowing the artificial split between Fire and EMS that we have here for legacy reasons. The challenges and frustrations this separation creates for your first responders are significant. Fire District #3 Prop 1 will finally fix a serious flaw in our system.

Volunteers and staff from both EMS and Fire are in favor of the levy. The boards from both agencies support this proposition.

Vote yes for Fire District #3 Proposition 1 and help your first responders do the best they can for you.