Planning for new fire stations in Carlsborg and Dungeness, hiring more line staff and adding and repairing some new big rigs all appear to be part of Clallam County Fire District 3’s 2022 budget.
Fire commissioners unanimously approved the district’s approximate $12.4 million budget on Nov. 16. That’s an increase of about $884,000 from this year’s budget with approved staff raises and additions, and sizable projects.
Forecasted revenues, according to district staff, look to be about $8.8 million from the general property tax, $3.1 million from the EMS property tax, and the remainder from grants, paid services and other revenues.
Fire Chief Ben Andrews said in a phone interview that calls for service during the COVID-19 pandemic in the district came in waves, with a lull at the beginning but becoming heavy again in recent months.
“It’s been real erratic,” he said.
While there’s still a month left in 2021, Andrews estimates this year has seen about a 10 percent increase in calls to date for service compared to 2019, pre-pandemic.
“We’re planning for the future and want to keep up with demand and expansion,” Andrews said.
“People are settling in the area with some large subdivisions going in and that’s going to have an impact as well.”
Next year’s budget includes two more line staff to bring the total to 43 starting tentatively in January 2022.
Currently there are five firefighters/EMS at the Sequim headquarters, two in Blyn and two in Carlsborg 24 hours a day.
The new hires will add one more spot to Carlsborg, Andrews said.
“It’s because of the demand,” he said. “Carlsborg’s call volume is exceeding what two people should be handling.”
With the additions, that brings 53 total staff inside the district including full/time and part/time line personnel and office staff, district officials report.
Next year, district officials will continue to plan for restructuring leadership roles to add battalion chiefs to shifts in 2023.
Currently there are three chiefs — a fire chief and two assistant chiefs — following the retirement of Assistant Chief Eric Quitslund in 2020. At all times, there is a shift captain in Sequim and a lieutenant in Blyn and Carlsborg.
A battalion chief would not be assigned to an ambulance or engine but float across the district managing it over a 24-hour shift, Andrews said.
In October, lieutenants were made captains so each station has a captain, he said, and when they shift to add three battalion chiefs for the three shifts, there’ll be a competitive interview process in 2023.
District leaders estimate about $1.5 million in proposed expenditures next year, including: $398,000 for a new 3,000-gallon water tender; $180,000 to remount an ambulance; $90,000 to remount a brush truck, and various repairs/replacements, such as $40,000 for HVAC repairs, $40,000 for a re-roof and parking lot repairs, and $25,000 for hose replacement.
For infrastructure, district leaders agreed to seek out consultants for architectural and engineering plans to replace stations in Carlsborg (Station 33) and Dungeness (volunteer station 31) for more than $375,000.
Andrews said in Carlsborg, vehicles don’t fit well in the garage and they have space to build across the road at the district’s shop next to Carlsborg Road.
As for the volunteer station in Dungeness on Sequim-Dungeness Way, Andrews said it’s unsafe, in a floodplain and falling apart. District officials are considering a design for a simple gathering space at the district’s property on Anderson Road just west of Marine Drive.
The district doesn’t have the money to build these potential projects, Andrews said, but planning could help them in the future with potential funding sources.
“Next year, if we do all the architecture and engineering so that it’s shovel ready, we can find funding through a grant, loan or bond,” Andrews said.
“(Having the plans) makes it a lot more successful for grants if shovel-ready. Our intent is to get the design, find funding and immediately start building.”
For more on Clallam County Fire District 3, call 360-683-4242 or visit ccfd3.org.