Sunday, November 29, 2015 • 04:24

Editorial: Fanning the flames of controversy

February 26, 2014
Valley Center Fire Protection District's is considering going solo. The board made the shocking announcement during its regular meeting last Thursday and I have a strong opinion on this idea we feel is important to share.

If Valley Center has its own fire department it will give greater coverage to our area, something that we are in dire need of. More firefighters to protect Valley Center would definitely be a good thing. More local control and more power over salaries are also good things.

What concerns me is how this new fire department would be funded. VCFPD treasurer Phil Bell said under his alternative proposal for he estimates a cost savings between $42,000 and $165,000 over the current resolution with the San Pasqual Tribal Fire Department.

What I wonder is if there is a staff of one fire chief, a battalion chief, and six fire captains, where the pay would come from. I am curious to know how an unincorporated area would pay those salaries since there are no taxes collected at the local level to fund those positions. I also wonders where the money to buy and service the necessary equipment would come from. These are some pretty big questions that Valley Center residents need answers to before the board should move forward in making this decision.

As a newbie to Valley Center, I don't know where funding for our local fire department comes from, but you can bet the Valley Roadrunner will be doing a complete piece highlighting the financial aspect of VCFPD in the coming weeks so we can share what we find.

Policies and procedures need to be in place. Feasibility studies should be done. A human resources department needs to be in place, funding needs to be hashed out and a million other issues need to be addressed before this kind of decision is made.

To the board's credit, they agreed to hold off on making a decision until potential issues such as funding a department are addressed in spite of the excitement over the then three-day-old idea. Kudos goes out to President Weaver Simonsen and Vice President Bill Palmer for being the voices of reason during the discussion.

Food for thought on funding, as tax rolls have fallen, many areas throughout the country "bill" residents within their fire districts a small annual fee upfront for services, kind of an insurance policy, so to speak. It's working all across the United States, why not in Valley Center?

Bottom line, the Valley Roadrunner supports the idea of an independent fire department, but not at the expense of the quality of service to our citizens.

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