The 2017 rejection of an approved federal grant that would have helped fund six firefighter positions for Clallam County Fire District No. 3 was the primary topic for fire commissioner candidate Bill Miano during a League of Women Voters forum Sunday.
Miano’s opponent, incumbent James Barnfather, did not attend the forum because of a prior family commitment. Linda Rotmark filled in for Barnfather but was not allowed to answer questions per league rules.
“I moved to Sequim in the summer of 2017 and as I was moving to town, I was reading the newspapers … and had read the fire district received an award for a [Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response] grant for approximately $1 million,” Miano said. “This would have partially funded about 66 percent of the salaries for six new firefighters to be added to staffing.”
Miano, a retired firefighter, told those in attendance that the fire district turned down the grant after it had told the federal government it needed the funding to hire new firefighters.
“When I went to grant writing classes, the biggest piece of advice they gave us is when you are awarded a grant, you don’t turn it down,” Miano said. “These are competitive grants. We told the federal government we need staffing.”
Though Barnfather didn’t attend, he had a statement read for him, part of which addressed the grant.
“I voted to reject it because it required the fire district to not only supply matching funds of over $1 million over three years, but we would have had to sustain the costs of those six employees another $1 million annually beyond those three years,” according to his statement.
“My opponent is among those who believe we should have gambled in accepting that grant and worry about how we were going to pay for it down the road, with potential layoffs down the road.”
The Sequim-area fire district serves residents in both Clallam and Jefferson counties.
It extends from Deer Park in Clallam County to about 3 miles east of the Jefferson County line to include Gardiner and portions of Discovery Bay.