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Election forum: South King Fire commissioner candidates
The failure of 2010’s proposed service benefit charge (also known as Prop. 1) shaped much of the conversation during the Oct. 12 candidates forum at Federal Way High School’s little theater.
There are two contested races for South King Fire and Rescue’s board of commissioners. Mark Thompson is facing Timolin Abrom for position 4; Jim Fossos and Jerry Galland seek position 5. Abrom did not participate in the forum, but Thompson still answered questions from the moderator.
Commissioners serve six-year terms. Both Fossos and Thompson are longtime incumbents as well as former career firefighters.
Fossos says this experience is key because he knows what firefighters need and how they think. Fossos was originally elected in 1993, starting in Des Moines before the merger that created SKFR. He has served on a number of firefighter-related state boards, and has financial experience from serving as chair and secretary on the board of the Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union. He is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran who spent three decades in the Seattle Fire Department. He is involved in the county’s homeland security and emergency management committees.
Thompson was first elected in 1999, and is deputy fire marshal for King County Fire Marshal Office. He has served on multiple state fire boards and commissions, and educates new fire commissioners. Thompson spent 25 years as a firefighter in Seattle, and also served in Edgewood. He said SKFR is at a financial crossroads and he can help it meet future challenges.
Galland has no fire-related experience, but regularly attends fire board commissioner meetings and blogs online about the fire district. He said he can read budgets and knows what’s going on. He is a 34-year employee of Boeing, a prolific blood donor and a small sand-carving business owner. As a self-appointed watchdog, Galland publicly criticizes the fire district’s expenditures and challenges procedures. Despite a perceived contentious relationship, Galland said he is committed to working with the board and, if elected, will support measures that pass.
The hottest topic at the forum was the proposed service benefit charge from 2010. Rejected by voters, the charge would have supplemented the fire district’s income from property taxes, which have plummeted in recent years.
Galland, who mounted a campaign to help defeat the service benefit charge, said the measure should go back on the ballot. He said the fire district should put a cap on the money it is allowed to collect from taxpayers. Fossos and Thompson argued against capping the service benefit charge, saying such a limit would be a hindrance because of the fluctuating costs and demand for fire service equipment. Fossos and Thompson said there’s a need to educate the public on the importance of properly funding their fire district.
Galland argued that the fire district has not been adversely affected by the measure’s failure. Fossos and Thompson refuted his points, saying an aid car has been removed from service and response times have increased.
If re-elected, Fossos promises to pursue the completion of a proposed training facility in Federal Way. He also wants to search for a funding mechanism for the district and put extra firefighters on every rig. If re-elected, Thompson would like to see the installation of residential sprinklers across the city. He also wants to see that the fire district earns national accreditation, which leads to lower insurance costs. If elected, Galland would seek a public vote on the proposed training facility, and promises more public transparency in the fire district’s business.