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Controversy over heats up over five-year plan for Silvana Fire District

SILVANA Controversy marked the first in a series of three meetings to create a five-year plan for Snohomish County Fire Protection District 19 in Silvana.
Consultant David Crossen, a retired Washington state firefighter, was invited to the Silvana Fire Station April 9 by district commissioners Roy Strotz, Mike Knudson and Steve Geiger to lay out a strategy with a committee of firefighters and community members selected by the board of commissioners.
Crossen explained that the committee was meant to represent all the stakeholders in the district, from its commissioners and administrators to its firefighters, emergency medical technicians and citizens. Area resident Bill Steiner called for the committee to induct fellow citizen Larry Fransson and volunteer firefighter Jeremy Swearengin, describing them as respected and informed members of the community. Committee member Carlo Cecchetto, a firefighter and EMT, endorsed this suggestion, but Strotz preferred to wait until the next meeting April 16 to consider new committee members.
Crossen described the proposed process for creating a plan, by visualizing what the district might look like five years from now and identifying:
1. The districts strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
2. Its possible population growth.
3. What services it should have.
4. What its staffing needs would be.
5. How it could fund those services and staff.
6. What its call volume might be.
While committee member Al Sipma, a former volunteer firefighter, expected the population would double or triple in five years, fellow committee member Mary Manning agreed that growth would occur, but believed it would slow down due to rising gas prices. Manning placed a higher priority on emergency response time than on equipment, but added that she was willing to pay more taxes to provide firefighters and EMTs with tools and training.
Keith Strotz, committee member and captain of the district, identified two types of customers that show how much the district is changing.
We have old folks who call us at 8 a.m. complaining of chest pains, Strotz said. We ask them when their pains started and they say around midnight. They didnt call us sooner because they didnt want to bother us. We also have more and more young kids who dont care about that, because they expect their services right away.
Committee member Kurt Winterhalter, a volunteer firefighter, considered how the districts call volume might be affected without the Island Crossing area as a customer, since it may be annexed into the city of Arlington. Because of the districts zoning, he didnt see any reason to plan for business or industrial growth, and expressed the concern that rising property taxes might prevent retirees from living in the area as a result. Winterhalters brother and fellow committee member Mark, a past commissioner of the district, advocated extending 212th Street to bisect the district, thereby providing greater fire protection and emergency medical services coverage.
Committee member John Bradford echoed area residents who asserted that the committee would need to consult with Snohomish County before it could decide how to proceed.
Near the end of the meeting, several area residents in attendance criticized how the committee was chosen, as well as the lack of data available for their discussions.
When Crossen opened the discussion to non-committee members, several citizens criticized him for not gathering facts from Snohomish County representatives beforehand. He noted that any five-year plan chosen would be continually updated, and that the details of such a plan would be decided through the input of the people of the district, rather than by himself, which drew a response from non-committee member Edy Zelinka.
The input of the rest of the people shouldnt be limited to the last five minutes of this meeting, Zelinka said.

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