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Arlington Fire renews agreement with county investigator, receives laptops from SNOPAC

Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman explains the SNOPAC managed laptop program to Arlington City Council members on March 3. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman explains the SNOPAC managed laptop program to Arlington City Council members on March 3.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council unanimously approved two interlocal agreements between the Arlington Fire Department and county fire and emergency services on Monday, March 3.

Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman explained to Council members that the interlocal agreement with Snohomish County for fire investigation services was a relatively standard renewal of the contract that's been in place between the two agencies since 2009. By contrast, he believes the new interlocal agreement with SNOPAC for its managed laptop program should help make the city's fire and emergency services more efficient.

When Council member Chris Raezer inquired as to the possibility of using the city of Everett's Fire Marshal, Stedman noted that this would be cost-prohibitive, much like the other options of either hiring a fire investigator or training a current staff member.

"You also have the issue that the Everett Fire Marshal will only investigate the origins of a given fire, without also covering the criminal and law enforcement side of things," Stedman said.

"It's worth noting that most cities in the county are doing the same as us, except for Everett," Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said.

The agreement includes mutual aid fire investigation assistance and compensation rates for the next five years.

The managed laptop program is also a five-year agreement, under which SNOPAC will provide laptop computers and related equipment to the Arlington Fire Department, to be used on its first-line apparatus and chief officer vehicles. The cost per vehicle comes out to $91.71 per month, which will cover repair and replacement costs for the first three years, and labor costs during the fourth and fifth years.

Stedman touted these mobile data terminals as allowing the fire department's line staff and chief officers to view not only the department's units en route and on scene, but also pre-fire and other vital safety information. Grant funds from the Stillaguamish Tribe will cover the installation and the first four years of the contract.

"The Tribe set aside those funds for us in 2012, but we put a hold on them until all the proper technology could come together," said Stedman, who noted that the Arlington Fire Department had not previously used any such mobile data terminals, due to the prohibitive cost of purchasing eight laptops at a cost of $5,000 each, for a total price tag of $40,000. "SNOPAC came up with the idea of leasing the laptops. Their monthly fee is so cheap that we won't have to go into the general fund for four years."

Stedman added that the mobile data terminals also remove the need for a great deal of radio transmissions.

"Are these laptops lease-to-own?" Council member Debora Nelson asked.

"No, at the end of the five-year agreement, they go back to SNOPAC, after which it's possible that we'd start another cycle with newer laptops," Stedman said.

"What about the software problems that were reported?" fellow Council member Randy Tendering asked.

"Those have since been straightened out," said Stedman, before chuckling, "I think the degree of problems that were reported had more to do with selling newspapers."

"I just want to thank you for all that you've done to help keep the Arlington Fire Department on the cutting edge of service and technology," Tolbert told Stedman, after both votes by the Council that evening.

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