August is still two and a half months away, but Spokane Valley Fire officials are thinking about the dog days of summer.
Specifically, they’re concerned about what could happen if voters don’t rally around the renewal of a three-year maintenance-and-operations levy that represents approximately 53 percent of the department’s budget.
Voters will be asked on Aug. 7 to approve a levy that would collect $1.59 per $1,000 in assessed valuation for 2013-2015, which is the same as the current rate. And while the electorate has been famously supportive of Spokane Valley levy requests – the last one was approved by about 69 percent – fire officials are looking ahead.
Once area that would be affected, Spokane Fire Chief Mike Thompson said during Monday’s regular fire commissioners meeting, is that department would likely not replace two of its seven paramedics who will be retiring soon.
If that happens, the department could only provide “basic life support” rather than the “advanced life support” status that comes from a fully trained paramedic. With only five ALS-trained firefighters scattered across the district – and with about 80 percent of the department’s calls being a medical emergency of some nature – response times would also suffer.
“The calls won’t go down,” Thompson said. “With just a handful of paramedics, it would be challenging to provide the service.”
Fire commissioners will get a chance to look at some informational materials being prepared by the department staff at their May 29 meeting (a day late due to Memorial Day on May 28). If approved, the department plans on making presentations to the city councils of the jurisdictions it serves as well as local service clubs such as the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“It appears there’s not a lot for us to decide,” say Commissioner Joe Dawson. “The public has to be told. We just have to be honest with them.”
The department is also eyeing the November general election to ask voters again to approve the levy if it fails in August.
“We can only do what we can do,” said Commissioner Bill Anderson.