UPDATE: Fire won't sign ILA unless ALL PHD commissioners agree on it

Public Hospital District #1 Chair Dr. Michael Edwards told his fellow commissioners that they will meet on November 12 in a special meeting and Fire District #3 would meet on November 14 to sign the most recent draft of the Interlocal Agreement switching Administration of San Juan Island EMS to the San Juan Island Fire Department.

What he failed to mention was a letter he received October 21 from Fire Commissioner Chair Bob Jarman that negated that scenario.

In the letter, Jarman said, "We [Fire Commissioners] will be prepared to move forward at the time when there is a full commitment from the commissioners, especially the incoming, as they will be the commissioners working  through the ongoing steps of integration."

Two of the current PHD  commissioners - Anna Lise Lindstrum, Dr. Warren Appleton - and four of the incoming commissioners oppose the rushed and behind-closed-doors process that PHD Commissioners Rebecca Smith, Dr. Mark Schwinge and Edwards have used in an effort to adopt the ILA before they leave. 

The letter from Jarman puts a stop to the rush job. The ILA requires signatures from both the Fire District and the PHD before it goes into effect.

TEXT OF LETTER

October 21, 2019

Dr. Michael Edwards, Chair, Board of Commissioners

San Juan County Public Hospital District 1

849 Spring Street, Unit B-5

Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Dear Chairman Edwards,

Following our joint decision and agreement on April 2, 2019, both our boards unanimously agreed to move forward with integrating Emergency Medical Services (EMS) with San Juan Island Fire and Rescue in order to provide the residents of both our Districts, including San Juan Island and the near outer island communities, into a single Emergency Services Organization (ESO). We wanted to take a moment to reaffirm our mutual commitment to the process and community.

Following our board’s joint, unanimous decision to proceed, the Chiefs and staff of our commissions have been diligently and professionally working to move forward with the planning and implementation of the proposed integration.

This work has required an extensive commitment of time and effort, with honesty, transparency, and integrity. The end goal of this process is to provide the best, most comprehensive, integrated emergency service we can provide the communities we serve. The work of the integration committee, appointed by both of our Commissions, has been conducted in open public meetings and it is documented on the SJCPHD website. All of this work has been done to be prepared to present the full integration plan to our voters and to be prepared for a seamless implementation of our integrated emergency service plan. As steps in the process and best practices become ready, communication plans are developed and shared with respective commissions and communities.

As elected commissioners of San Juan County Fire District 3, we have been proud to engage with SJCPHD to move forward with integrating emergency services. We strongly stand by our decision to move forward with integration solely because believe it is the fair and right thing to do for our community. Integration of emergency services follows national and statewide best emergency management practices. We believe it is the fair thing to do for our taxpayers, our residents, and our visitors. It is also the right thing to do for our staff, both career and volunteer, who are the first responders on scene protecting our community.

As commissioners, we do not believe there is a financial gain to the District from our mutual agreement with SJCPHD to provide integrated emergency services, which would, if the sole reason for integration, be wrong for the taxpayers and demonstrate a failure as commissioners protecting our community. We believe we take on more risk and create more challenges for our district in taking integration on. We do not believe there is any benefit for our district beyond doing the fair and right thing in providing the best, integrated emergency service we can in order to protect our community. As discussed by both of our boards, there are upcoming electoral timelines that impact some of the options our voters have to consider as they decide on annexation and tax levies.

San Juan County Fire District 3 will continue, with the unanimous support of our commissioners, to proceed with preparations for the integration of emergency services as we had already jointly decided with your board. We will be prepared to move forward at the time when there is a full commitment from the commissioners, especially the incoming, as they will be the commissioners working through the ongoing steps of integration. As the outgoing and incoming commissioners work on transitioning, we are hopeful and optimistic the SJCPHD will continue your commitment to working towards our mutual goal in providing exceptional emergency service for all of our community.

Sincerely,

Bob Jarman,

Chair, Board of Commissioners

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