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Fire District budget increased by 1%


November 21, 2019

POMEROY- The Fire District commissioners signed a resolution certifying the new levy amount for 2020, which has increased by 1% over the 2019 amount of $435,996.30. The new levy amount, which also includes an increased collection amount for $691,200 in valuation for new construction at $0.71 per $1,000, will be a total of $440,849.98 for the fire district.

Wellens Farwell Inc. site Superintendent Severin, met with the Garfield County Fire District Commissioners November 12, to discuss the progress made on the new fire station facility and potential changes. Severin reported that all concrete completion goal date was November 13 including pouring the flagpole base and backfilling behind the concrete wall. He added that framing will begin November 18, and the trusses will arrive the following week on November 26. The construction of the walls and roofing is estimated to take about one to two weeks. He indicated that Wellens Farwell has extra help from other construction projects will be coming to expedite the project.

A $3,481 change order for asphalt patchwork installation where a storm water drain and a water tap were added. According to Severin, omission of the utilities service in the plans, should have been researched and included in the engineer blueprints. The added cost for the asphalt work was approved by the commissioners.

An additional survey was needed, and conducted by Thomas, Dean and Hoskins (TD&H). Wellens Farwell reduced the cost of this change order by eliminating any mark-up on their behalf, and allowed the Fire District to pay the cost directly to TD&H. The cost of $1,570 for the survey was approved by the commissioners.

A proposed change order to leave the back-concrete wall exposed rather than finish with drywall and insulation but included electrical conduit was not approved by the commissioners. They reasoned finishing the back wall had greater value in the long run than the immediate cost savings of $5,595.

An estimate from an electrician out of Walla Walla to install an additional light switch that would run up one wall, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall at a cost of $1,366 was the subject of the fourth change order. The request was declined because the estimate was excessive and the extra light switch is unnecessary. The original plan includes six rows of nightlights.

Kris Darby, Fire Chief, let the commissioners know that the Fire District’s attorney, Bryan Snure, is currently looking over the district’s contract with the engineer, Dan Wambeke, to see if the District has any recourse for the omissions to the plans for the new fire station, which have cost the district an extra $107,010.90 in change orders to date on the project.

Darby said he will be asking for a signed disclaimer from Montana Helical Piers to release the district from any liability upon the removal of shoring panels they installed to construct the concrete walls. He deems it as a dangerous situation for workers due to the severely limited space and a potential trap hazard. Officials from Wellens Farwell agree and will ask for a disclaimer as well. Darby stated that inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have come to the construction site twice since the project began, but was unsure how they would view the risk of removing the panels. It was determined that a call to OSHA was in order. Darby agreed to make contact.

On a new topic, Darby reported that the district’s thermal camera was “defunct,” stating that it was having battery failures, and that new batteries are no longer available. The old batteries have to be rebuilt. A new thermal camera, batteries and charger is estimated to cost about $7,500. The fire district hasn’t used the camera in about six years, but its potential use for hazmat responses, motor vehicle crashes, outdoor search and rescue, and wildland fires among others is important. It was decided to look into purchasing a new one. The camera being replaced was purchased through the Emergency Management Memorial Fund and could have money to cover the cost of replacement. Darby will inquire about available funds.

Darby gave the commissioners copies of a resolution draft for the surplus ambulance shed on the Hospital District’s property. He asked them to look the draft over so it could be discussed it at the next meeting.

The final issue discussed at the November meeting of the Fire District commissioners, was the extra shifts worked by the district’s two full-time, salaried employees, Kris Darby and Deanna Weymouth. Because they are salaried, they currently do not get paid for taking weekend shifts when volunteers are not available. Volunteers are paid on a point basis, at a rate of $1.50 per point. Different duties are assessed at different point values.

Darby calculated that in one quarter alone, he would have accumulated 561 points, which would have given him an extra $841 in income if he had been paid for those shifts. The example led Commissioner Don McGreevy to state that it is “part of the trouble of being salaried” and that it has always been that way with the Garfield County Fire District.

Commissioner Terry Johns responded that they “should still be able to volunteer” and get paid for the extra shifts they take on the weekends. He added that their base salary is based on a 60-hour work week, made up of five 12-hour shifts. Their 12-hour work days include two hours in the morning on call, and two hours in the evening on call. Johns stated that he didn’t feel it was fair to them to pick up all the extra shifts, such as in August when volunteers were busy with harvest, and then not be compensated for that.

Darby added that for the month of November, he has already picked up nine extra shifts, and will be working on Thanksgiving, when he is supposed to have holidays off. McGreevy stated that he feels the district is already compensating the two paid employees very well by this community’s standards, and he requested that they wait to discuss the issue further when the third commissioner, Gary Bowles, is present. The discussion was tabled until the next regular Fire District Commissioners Meeting December 10, 2019, at 5 p.m. held at the fire station.


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