Spokane County Fire District Board Commissioner William A. “Bill” Anderson and challenger Larry T. Rider have at least one thing in common: more than two decades of firefighting experience.
Anderson was employed with the Spokane Valley Fire Department for 29 years as a firefighter, dispatcher, engineer and officer.
Rider, 60, was employed with the fire department for more than 35 years where he served as lieutenant and deputy fire chief.
Anderson, 72, said he’s seeking re-election as a board commissioner, a seat he’s held for more than 17 years, because the Spokane Valley Fire Department is making great changes that he wants to see continue.
“We got a lot of things going on right now, and I want to finish the work I started,” he said, adding that commercial development near Barker Road and Trent Avenue could signal there’s a need for a new fire station.
Anderson said the Valley’s population grew by more than 60,000 people since he started working for the fire department. During that time, the department expanded from six fire stations to 10 and added an administration building.
“We’ve done all of this without a bond issue,” he said. “We are debt-free with the exception of our tractor-drawn aerial truck. We got money from the county for that and are paying it back over three to four years.”
However, Rider doesn’t think the budget can sustain the department’s future expenses.
“It’s time for change in leadership,” he said. “Government should be mostly fiscally conservative, and they have to maintain trust with citizens in Valley.”
Rider said the firefighters union support staff approached him to run in the election, stating there’s growing concerns about the utilization of the department’s financial resources.
“Based on planning, you can project revenue and expenses. They have to stay in line,” he said. “You can’t spend more money than you think you are going to have. You have to plan how you are going to deliver services to the citizens.”
The Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Commissioners adopted a $38 million budget for 2017, which includes $1.5 million for the 100-foot tractor-drawn aerial truck ordered last year and $3 million for relocation and construction of the Liberty Lake Station No. 3, which will be completed in December.
The Spokane Valley Fire Department’s capital expenditures are funded through a regular and excess tax levy with revenue generated through property taxes. Voters approve the regular levy every four years which provides 52 percent of funding for maintenance, capital projects and operations.
Earlier this year, Spokane Valley became the only fire department in Eastern Washington to earn a rating of 2 by the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau. That’s the best rating in the state and could lower insurance rates in the district.
Although the department is on budget for 2017, a five-year projection of expenditures indicates a potential future deficit, according to Spokane Valley Fire Department documents.
Anderson said although the district may need to consider asking voters to increase taxes through a levy lid lift to meet demands within the next levy cycle, voters ultimately choose which services they would like to have in the Valley.
“As far as the budget goes, we ask to make the department better,” he said. “We tell people what the levy is for and they can choose. They can vote yes or no if they want service or not. We aren’t doing it on our own without consent of people in the Valley.”
Anderson said if he’s re-elected, communication between employees, the labor union and commissioners is an area he’d like to see improve as well as continued improvement on dispatch response times.
“We are going through some growing pains,” he said. “We really need to work together as a team and get everyone on the same page.”
Rider said fire district residents should pay more attention to commission races.
“I hope they start to pay attention to it whether I win or lose,” he said. “Those services are a fabric of our community.
“It matters to me. What happens to the fire department matters a great deal to me.”
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