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Arlington public safety on the ballot

 


After working for over 39 years in public safety in Arlington (EMS & Fire), and being a part of building a program that was second to none, I have watched the decline of a first-class Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program, and can no longer be silent.

The elected officials in Arlington (Mayor and two council members) are again asking you to support them, and they will tell you of great things they have accomplished. Read what they haven’t told you.

They asked you to vote for an EMS levy five years ago and promised to maintain and improve the level of services. You, the voters, responded with overwhelming support of over 80% approval. The elected officials kept in place “hold the line budgets” or reduced them by 5%-10%. This continued following the recession. The emergency call responses have continued to increase, still no priority given to the fire or EMS budgets. The elected officials then decided to increase your city public safety tax.

In April of 2014, they proposed an increase in (public safety) taxes. The public was told if you pass this tax increase, the fire, police and EMS services will be stable for the next 10-20 years. The Mayor and council told the staff that if the tax passed, Arlington Fire Department could finally look forward to hiring more needed staff and purchasing new up to date equipment. The increase was to improve and provide excellent service to you, the taxpayer, as promised. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. The 10-20 year promise vanished. Five months later, the fire department was told of major financial mistakes and short falls, especially in the EMS program. The financial problems include a breakdown of a 16-year relationship with Fire District 21 concerning costs of ALS and BLS services.

Note worthy; about 85% of the fire department’s responses are EMS related. In September of 2014 the department was told that the Medical Services Administrator (MSA) position was being eliminated. The MSA was a paramedic Chief Officer who provided oversight to the paramedics and EMT program for the previous 12 years. The MSA worked with Snohomish County EMS and the County Medical Program Director (MPD). As you read this, there is still no oversight for the EMS service.

Over the last two years, 7 very skilled FF/paramedics and FF/EMT’s have left Arlington Fire for other fire department jobs, mostly in this county. The majority of the great men and women who were hired to replace staff have little to no experience. Surprisingly the mayor asked the full-time firefighters for their endorsement, they declined. They provided (in writing), several reasons why they would not endorse her.

Your mayor and council have allowed a continued degrading of your emergency services. They have placed money in the bank, given raises to administrative staff, all at the peril of public safety. They did purchase a new ladder truck ($1 million), but have no dedicated staff to man it when it arrives. The incumbents on the ballot should be replaced, and then those still in office held accountable.

For full discloser, I am the MSA that was mentioned. I also worked on the medic units in this town and up and down the Stilly Valley, along with Harold Smith, a 40-year veteran of the department. We were honored this last July 4th as the parade Grand Marshals. Please consider your public safety when you vote.

Harold Smith

Retired-FF/Paramedic Arlington Fire

Doug Schmidt

Retired-Division Chief /Paramedic- Arlington Fire

 

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