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Letters to the Editor - May 30, 2011

  • Written by Readers

Time to speak up

I’ve been a Woodinville firefighter for almost 18 years, and I wanted to add my two cents to last week’s article (May 23, "Fire Brass, Union Go Toe to Toe") regarding firefighters’ dispute with WF&R Fire Chief I. David Daniels and the fire commission.

We firefighters have seen significant changes in our fire service over the last year and a half, and we’re not simply carping about the addition of administrators as we watch critical fire services being cut.

We are sincerely concerned about our ongoing ability to provide fire and emergency medical services to the community and we are concerned about the solvency of the fire district based on the district’s own numbers. We will continue to be vocal because we’re adamant about serving and protecting the citizens of Woodinville.

Other fire departments in the county, state, and nation are consolidating districts to eliminate overlap and waste in administration in order to keep more firefighters on the street. The Woodinville Fire District is actually cutting firefighters while adding new administrative positions that have never even existed in this district.

It’s well past time to re-prioritize the budget to reinstate the fire district’s focus on the delivery of fire and emergency medical services to the citizens of Woodinville.

Incidentally, the Woodinville fire district is set to begin interviewing candidates on June 7 for an Emergency Manager, another new full-time administrative position.

I invite you and all of your readers to come to the Board of Fire Commissioners Meeting on the evening of Monday, June 6, at 5 p.m. at Station 31 (17718 Wood/Snohomish Road) to voice your opinion about this and other issues facing the fire district.

Paul Peterson, treasurer, Local 2950 Woodinville Firefighters

 

Woodinville firefighters cancel time off

Recently, Woodinville firefighters were able to keep a fire engine in service by canceling their scheduled time off.

Six firefighters from Woodinville Fire and Rescue will transfer to the Kirkland Fire Department as a result of the recent annexation. Although the annexation does not occur until June 1, Woodinville Fire and Rescue Chief I. David Daniels sent the six firefighters to Kirkland effective May 16 so they could receive orientation and training from their new employer. The chief also decided to reduce the staffing at Station 34 for this two-week period from three firefighters to two. This action would have placed Engine 34 out of service but would maintain operations for Aid Unit 34. This meant that the Kingsgate and Hollywood Hill residents would be without the protection of a fire engine for two weeks.

When the fire fighters of Woodinville Fire and Rescue heard that area residents would be without a fire engine, they quickly mobilized to fix the situation. About a dozen firefighters canceled their time off in order to increase the staffing level at Station 34 from May 16 to June 1.

If there is available time off on the calendar, they will be able to reschedule this time for later in the year.

Several of the firefighters needed to cancel other plans and obligations they had in order to make this happen. This sacrifice compensated for the early transfer of the firefighters to Kirkland, ensured that the area residents were adequately covered in case of a fire-related emergency and was cost neutral to Woodinville Fire and Rescue.

Tad Wineman, Battalion Chief, E-board, Local 2950

 

Letter is fascinating and appalling

The May 16th letter-to-the-editor about more administrators than firefighters was both fascinating and appalling, especially in view of a Seattle Times recently published "Highest Paid City of Seattle Employees" of which 14 of 20 of the highest paid were fire department chiefs.

Their gross annual pay ranged between $199,236 and $238,919. (It would be educational to local taxpayers if the Woodinville Weekly would publish the gross annual pay of Woodinville district chiefs, as well as administrators and firefighters who are non-chiefs.)

I understand that firefighters are able to condense their work weeks into a couple of days at the station, because they eat and sleep at the station, with all time counted as work.

I’ll bet the average taxpayer would endorse lowering firefighters’ wages and benefits, especially in outlying areas where there are few, if any, industrial-type fires and a preponderance of emergency-assistance calls having nothing to do with fires.

Maxine Keesling. via e-mail

 

Trail rules need to be posted

As a long time resident and someone who has literally logged thousands of miles on the Sammamish River Trail (running, walking and biking), I’ve seen more accidents in the last few months than in the last 20 years. This is due mainly to the large number of new users who have no idea of the rules that used to govern the use of the trail. There used to be signs at each trail entrance with the rules pertaining to the trail. They specifically said: 15 mph speed limit, all users STAY TO THE RIGHT, pedestrians have the right of way. Bikers should announce when passing and King County helmet law BOH 9.10.010(A) is in effect.

I’ve sent letters to King County Parks without response. Can’t Woodinville do something to help families be safe on the trail?

Perhaps this would be a good Rotary project if there aren’t public funds available.

With summer coming (even though that’s hard to believe), it would be great to get everyone over to the right and not be grazed by speeding bikers who come flying by you without announcing themselves.

The trail is being used by more and more families and should be governed by safety regulations to help avoid accidents.

Streets are a better place for "Tour de France" training than a trail where children are learning to ride with training wheels. We really miss the signs.

Bill Phillips, Woodinville

 

Black bears in Bear Creek Valley

I just had the biggest black bear I have seen since moving here in 1957, wandering around my lawn and garden. He looks well fed, but certainly is foraging. I live on Bear Creek near the Woodinville-Duvall Road.

Needless to say, we have always had bears and are used to them. However, with the shrinking habitat and poor food supply, the bears are becoming bolder and more desperate. It would be good to alert folks in the Upper Bear Creek area to watch their bird feeders, as that is a big source of food for these bears.

Wendy Walsh, Bear Creek Farm, Woodinville

 

Countywide Community Forums

While some bright spots are emerging in our local economy, many communities continue to feel economic distress and local governments continue to deal with budget shortfalls that include cuts in services and vital programs.

Citizens throughout King County are asking the question, "How can we do better, especially in those communities hit hardest by the recession?"

Your county leaders want to hear from you about what you need to be safe, healthy, and successful – no matter where you live, your income level, your age, or ethnic background.That is why Countywide Community Forums (CCF) is providing both neighborhood-based forums and online tools for you to share your opinions with county decision-makers. This process is designed to give you an easy, educational, and enjoyable opportunity to be heard on important issues.

Community values and hands-on democracy have been a passion of mine for over 40 years. Our sense of community is about how we connect to each other and influence larger social trends through the choices we make. CCF is about making the democratic process more accessible and using technology in ways that strengthen our civic infrastructure ... . You can take the online survey and learn more at CommunityForums.org or call toll free at (800) 369-2584.

Dick Spady, co-founder and president, Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants, Inc.

 

Postal workers are heroes

The postal food drive is very important in the life of a food bank. Our holiday donations are depleted and summer is right around the corner. We are deeply grateful to everyone who gave so generously to this food drive. We collected nearly 10,000 lbs. of food which will help us this summer. We are very grateful to the postal workers who take time to collect the food on their routes. We know it takes a lot of extra time to pick it up and make extra room in your trucks. You are our heroes. Thank you everyone who helped extend limited budgets with good food.

Fran Walster, Maltby Food Bank Director

Letters to the Editor - May 23, 2011

  • Written by Readers
 Thank you

I want to sincerely thank the volunteers who came out (recently) to join in our Hollywood Hill Early Summer Roadside Cleanup. Along with many other groups, the Hollywood Hill Association hosts roadside cleanup days through the King County Adopt-A-Road program which provides volunteers with the supplies, safety equipment and the opportunity to contribute to bettering our community. I was just speaking with a friend who was in a nearby state who was shocked at how dirty the streets were. By comparison, our Woodinville area is wonderfully clean through the efforts of local volunteers who make the effort to enhance the lives of all of us. It is more important now than ever before to take just an hour or two once or twice a year to give back to your community. Your work will be greatly appreciated, and as the Hollywood Hill Association Adopt-A-Road coordinator I would like to thank Paul Kim, Suzy, Mike, Carolyn and Lincoln for their efforts. Special thanks go to Kevin, Rieley, Kauri and Dana, four young men who worked hard and cheerfully, filling several bags. These young men are learning the value of giving back to our community, and I hope to see more young people at our next cleanup.

John S. Snow, Woodinville

Letters to the Editor - May 16, 2011

  • Written by Readers

Fire district top-heavy with managers

Woodinville Firefighters have been concerned over the last year and a half that the poor decisions being made by the current administration and board would move beyond simply damaging trust and confidence among district employees.

Eventually, we feared, bad policy decisions would have a direct and harmful impact on the services we are able to provide to the citizens of Woodinville and the surrounding communities.

Our fears are being realized.

Fire Station 34 in Kingsgate will be officially closing on June 1st, 2011 and if not for the actions taken by the firefighters, Engine 34 would have been placed out of service two weeks earlier on May 16th*.

Additionally, the office of Public Education is closing and the Fire Prevention Bureau has been eviscerated.

The leadership of Woodinville Firefighters Local 2950 presented reasonable options to continue coverage in Station 34’s response area after the annexation, but the chief and the board rebuffed them. We have also stressed the importance of public education and fire prevention to no avail.

Ironically, all this is happening during a time when the number of administrators at WF&R is being dramatically increased. The organizational chart that is being implemented resembles a big city fire department, not a small fire district.

When the staffing plan is complete and Station 34 is no longer open, there will be more office administrators than there will be firefighters on duty providing fire and emergency medical services to the community.

How is this possible? Well, for the first time in the fire district’s history, the fire chief has his own full-time personal executive assistant. Additionally, there are two deputy chiefs and there is a chief administrative officer as well.

An operations deputy chief is necessary in any fire department but what does the second deputy chief do when there is already a chief administrative officer? I’m not sure. Incidentally, the board of fire commissioners reorganized the fire district at the end of 2009 with the expressed intent to lower overhead costs and reduce the number of deputy chiefs to one. There are effectively three now, including the chief administrative officer.

In the finance division, the district has added a full-time finance manager in addition to the full-time payroll manager and the full-time accounts payable/receivable manager.

What does a full-time finance manager do at such a small organization that already has a fire chief to do the annual budget, and a payroll manager and an accounts payable/receivable manager that handle the day-to-day finances? I’m not sure, but he has been very helpful lately attending to maintenance needs such as replacing ceiling tiles, ordering light bulbs, and repairing oven doors. This should not last long, however, as the fire district has just hired a full-time maintenance person.

If this weren’t enough, a job posting has just recently been issued to hire a full-time emergency manager whose job duties will most certainly mimic work already being done by current employees.

There is also a plan in place to hire a full-time human resources manager apparently to assist the chief administrative officer. Each of these extraneous administrators cost nearly as much as a full-time firefighter and some of them cost more.

To top it all off, the fire district allows many of these administrators to flex their time and work from home since the board and the fire chief decided to close the administrative offices on Fridays.

So, dear public, if you have non-emergency business with the fire district, please come by or call Monday through Thursday. If you need direct contact with the fire chief, however, I honestly can’t say with any certainty when he will be in – please contact his executive assistant.

If you have an emergency, please dial 9-1-1. We will be honored to serve you. Unfortunately, if you are calling from 34’s response area outside of the City of Kirkland, we regret to inform you that we will be responding from an outlying station and therefore will be delayed.

Tony Woods,
Firefighter and E-board Member, Local 2950

*BOFC Meeting, May 2, 2011 – See Vimeo Link http://vimeo.com/23237468

Letters to the Editor - May 9, 2011

  • Written by Readers

Firefighters boycott their own ceremony

There was a going away ceremony at the Woodinville Fire and Rescue headquarters on May 2 for six Woodinville firefighters who will be transferred to the Kirkland Fire Department on May 16.

However, the six firefighters to be honored chose not to attend in protest. The transfers are a result of the Kingsgate annexation into the city of Kirkland and the closure of Fire Station 34.

The transferees feel they were neglected throughout the annexation process and feel that they were used as pawns by Woodinville’s administration.

They also object to the closure of the Kingsgate Fire Station without any plan to provide coverage to the remaining portion of the fire district that Woodinville is still obligated to protect. Sharing this sentiment, other Woodinville firefighters and staff also boycotted the event.

Washington state laws protect firefighters’ jobs in the event of such annexations but in order for those protections to be implemented, cooperation is required from the fire chiefs.

The Kirkland fire chief had to declare how many additional firefighters he would need to maintain fire and EMS services in the annexed area.

The Woodinville fire chief needed to declare the impact that the lost revenue would have on his personnel.

Three significant events occurred in 2010 that could have jeopardized the careers of the Woodinville firefighters.

Early in the year, Woodinville’s new fire chief, David Daniels, met with members of the Kirkland Fire Department and the City of Kirkland administrators to discuss the annexation.

He advised them that there would be zero impact on his employees as a result of the annexation in spite of the $1.2 million annual loss in revenue. Later in the year, he acknowledged that there would be an impact, but he refused to declare it until he had completed negotiating the firefighter’s new contract. (Letter from Daniels dated May 7, 2010)

The leadership of Local 2950 (WF&R) objected to the action and alleged that it was an unfair labor practice. Without declaring the impacts of the annexation, the Kirkland Fire Department could open up the new positions as opposed to filling them with the Woodinville firefighters who might lose their jobs. Lastly, the Woodinville fire district announced that it would close Station 34.

Chief Daniels finally relented in September 2010 and announced that he would be laying-off 10 firefighters as a result of the annexation. The number of employees to be transferred to Kirkland was reduced from 10 to six after two members retired from WF&R and two employees found employment with other fire agencies.

Unfortunately, the fire district maintains that the Kingsgate Fire Station will officially close on June 1.

Jeff Childs, one of the firefighters heading to Kirkland, said, "It was stressful and discouraging to be treated like our jobs and our service to Woodinville didn’t even matter. A lot of the guys at the bottom of the seniority list began looking for work at other fire departments. We were rarely provided with up-to-date information about our employment status and we were apparently treated as pawns. I can’t imagine any fire department treating their people the way mine treated me."

So, after almost 18 months of being neglected and having their careers put at risk, the six Woodinville firefighters heading to Kirkland on May 16 decided that they would rather not participate in their own going-away ceremony.

Ted Klinkenberg, executive board member of Local 2950, Woodinville Firefighters.

 

Thanks for the donations

Dear Wellington Hills neighbors:

We would like to thank you for coming to the Japan bake sale fundraiser. All donations went to the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The bake sale was at the 202nd Street Park on April 30.

Because of your generous donations, we raised over $300 that was sent through the Red Cross. We hope you enjoyed all the home-made goodies!

Once again, Thank You!

Nathan Cecchetto, Eamon O’Grady, Sean O’Grady

Letters to the Editor - May 2, 2011

  • Written by Readers

ALARM IS SOUNDING

I have a garden in the Sammamish Valley. For the past two summers my squash plants blossomed with beautiful orange flowers but produced little fruit. Was it due to the lack of pollination and bees? A group of us with Transition Woodinville hosted the documentary film The Vanishing of the Bees that was both alarming and enlightening. Colony Collapse Disorder is the term being used worldwide to describe this bee crisis. In France beekeepers united, hired a lawyer and the political official banned pesticide use to protect and save their bees. What will we do here in America and in our valley? Much of the research points to the use of pesticides, especially systemic ones, as the culprit. The alarm bell sounds. Are we enlightened enough to change old habits and thus save our bees — and ourselves?

Trish Knox, via e-mail

 

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

This is in response to the letter to the 4ditor from Rick Louis LaMarche in the April 18 issue of the Woodinville Weekly. While many, if not all, of the points raised by Mr. LaMarche also raise the hackles on my neck, I would like to offer a different perspective.

Many subdivisions are built by a large faceless land-speculation corporation, with no stake in the neighborhood other than making a profit. In this case, the applicants are the Baumgartners, our friends and neighbors who currently own and reside on the property. They have lived here longer than anyone on the Wedge, dating back to when it was an apple orchard for a working farm, and 136th Ave. NE was unpaved. They have stood with us at various hearings and city council meetings as we attempted to oppose the rampant development that has changed the Wedge much in the way Mr. LaMarche describes in his letter.

Now the Baumgartners want a piece of the action that has been granted to numerous developers. Their application for sub-platting their lot into four single family dwellings is well within the city’s zoning requirements, is consistent with recent construction on the Wedge, and actually preserves much more greenspace than other newly-built subdivisions. It would be grossly unfair to some really nice neighbors to let land developers build their subdivisions, but deny the Baumgartners the ability to do the same.

There are many things the Wedge neighbors can do to mitigate many of the items Mr. LaMarche mentions, such as insisting the city, and any future builder, comply with existing laws and Do The Right Thing. We have been clamoring for the city put in sidewalks on our street for years to protect children walking to school and slow the traffic on the 136th Ave. Drag Strip. Now maybe they will. Woodinville has indeed changed, from a small sleepy town "on the other side of Bothell" to just another section of the I-405 suburban corridor. The time to stop development on the Wedge has long gone. We gave it the old college try, but in the end the developments were built, and the traffic increased. We survived. The Baumgartners’ plans should be allowed to go through.

Richard C. Reed, Woodinville

 

EASTER MIRACLE

On Sunday morning I was contacted by my neighbor Colleen Porter that her son Cole’s wallaby was missing. Look up wallaby on your computer. It’s a mini kangaroo and obviously not indigenous to the area. Colleen and her two sons, Cole and Logan live on acreage next to us and have a veritable menagerie, horses, dogs, cats, goats and Marley the Wallaby. Colleen has raised two great boys and all the animals all by herself. Cole has had Marley for two years and has hand raised him since he was a baby. This animal was very well socialized with all their animals and people. He lived inside and was loved by all so when he went missing it was crucial we find him soon.

As mentioned before, Wallabies are not from this climate. They can suffer an autonomic nervous response to stress that can kill them. Needless to say the situation was dire. He was discovered missing early Sunday morning and it was surmised he had been out all night. We started to canvas the adjoining neighborhoods and post signs everywhere. I went with Cole while his mother and brother drove through the neighborhoods. I know the woods and the side streets that connect the woods so I went with Cole. We thrashed our way through a swamp with a sinkhole in it that Cole stepped in and sank to mid thigh, we trudged through the nasty swamp in horrible weather ... crawling over fences, through densely forested areas looking for signs of the wayward wallaby. We did find tracks initially (very distinct little wallaby feet) and were able to follow them in a specific direction for a short distance and ascertain which way he was moving but lost the tracks. We live in a very rural part of southeast Snohomish County where predator sightings are common and pets are frequently lost to them.

At around 11a.m., Colleen called to tell us there had been a sighting not far from where we were (but far from where he had come from). We cut through pastures and tresspassed across many peoples’ properties to get to the location. There we found an older gentlemen living in a place that we probably would have avoided had we just happened on by ... It’s the kind of place you wouldn’t just mosey on up to and ask if they had seen the missing critter without worrying about possibly getting shot or worse with a few "No Trespassing" signs that would have been enough to keep us out. This was the man that had seen Marley hopping through his property that morning. Marley had stopped to play a little with one of his dogs and then was chased out by another one. The man was very smart and called 911 to report a "kangaroo’ in his yard which is how Colleen got the tip. We scoured the property and all adjoining properties going door to door. There was another sighting later in the morning but that never panned out. We couldn’t find any tracks or anything to indicate he was there.

It was a long day of searching and I went home just before 7:00 pm. Colleen and the boys continued to search, making more signs, posting on craigslist, petfinder and contacting other missing animal resources. Cole and Colleen were up late into the night searching around the house.

Today (now he’s been gone over 36 hours in the cold), Colleen had contacted a woman that had a dog that did scent work and they were going to try and have him track Marley. Before the tracker showed up, Colleen received a call from the first guy with the dogs that scared off Marley. He was there, hiding in a tree well and not coming out. Colleen and Cole hopped in the car and with the help of the man they were able to catch him. In fact the man caught him mid air as he was trying to get away again! Colleen said it was a very dramatic ending to the wallaby’s little adventure. That man was a hero. The good will did not stop there. The original breeder of Marley is on his way to her home right now to give him an injection that may save him from the autonomic response that can kill the little guy even after the trauma is over.

 

The bigger part of the story is how everyone pulled together to save this one little, lonely wallaby. We, collectively, must have knocked on over 100 doors on Easter, during mealtime and not one person was rude or not helpful. EVERY person we spoke to offered to look for him. Every person. We knocked on doors of homes that we were very hesitant to approach due to appearance. We knocked on million dollar homes. There were a lot of people gone but the one’s that were home were incredibly gracious and kind. You cannot judge a person by their appearance, or their home, or the kind of vehicle they drive. Because of one boy’s broken heart, every single person was kind and accomodating. One guy walked us through miles of trails behind his home to find signs of Marley on Easter Sunday, leaving his family behind. WHO DOES THAT? I will tell you who does that, the kind people of rural south eastern Snohomish County. This story has a happy ending but only because of the kindness of strangers.

Marla Lindell, via e-mail

SAFETY RISK

Recently Dan Vaught, the executive director of Support Services for Northshore School District, proposed a change to School Board Policy 8100 which would have expanded the mandatory distance that students are required to walk to school from a one mile radius of the school to a two mile radius. Such a change would have created a safety risk for many of our children. I am grateful to School Board President Dawn McCravey for her unwavering support of our children and their safety.

At the April 12 school board meeting, during the first reading of Board Policy 8100, Ms. McCravey expressed concern over such a change in policy and the dangers in which it placed our children. At that time she stood alone among the board in her opinion that expanding the walking distance from one to two miles was an unsafe choice. Fortunately for our children ... the other school board members did come around and agreed with School Board President McCravey. Mr. Vaught’s proposed change has thus been stricken from the policy.

Jenny Day, Bothell