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Open letter to the Whitefish Fire Service Area Board

| June 25, 2020 1:00 AM

I am a homeowner in the Whitefish Fire Service Area (WFSA) and have been following with concern your scheme of dismantling the partnership between the Whitefish Fire Department and the Whitefish Fire Service Area. Your motives for this action seem to be based on the notion that the Whitefish Department is proposing an unfair increase in the amount it charges the WFSA for fire protection.

Your top priority should be how to provide the best level of response and fire protection in the WFSA at a reasonable cost. This should form the basis of negotiation with the Whitefish Fire Department.

You are suggesting instead that the WFSA form a volunteer fire department of it’s own and end our area being protected by the Whitefish Fire Department. You are proposing this action yet lack a plan, a budget, a timeline, open negotiations with Whitefish, and only five people showing interest in being volunteer fire fighters with little concern other than potentially saving money. How will this improve the fire protection in our area?

Which entity will provide EMTs? What level of emergency services can you provide the 86 square mile area with only one fire station (located at Hodson Rd. and Farm to Market) not centrally located in the County? Why would you want to change a working partnership that provides quality and timely responses to the WFSA? I highly recommend that our fire protection stay with the Whitefish Department even if it means an increase in taxes to make it happen.

I am appalled at your lack of transparency on multiple levels. Why has there been little public input from property owners? On May 1, you asked to hear from county property owners, yet you have not divulged a clear accounting of how many responses you received and what they said. You say that our fire service property taxes will go up and yet you do not use the full amount that our taxes currently provide. What happens to the money paid in property taxes that is not paid for fire protection? Where is your public accounting and accountability? I have seen no explanation for the reasoning and data supporting your proposal.

I’m also concerned about your ability to form and operate a volunteer fire department. If you implement your idea the same way you have gone about informing the public, running a community meeting, organizing support, recruiting volunteers and negotiating with Whitefish, I fear it will not result in adequate fire protection for our community.

—Carrie Bowman, Whitefish