Sammamish Maintains Partnership With Eastside, WA Local
February 18, 2014 – After almost a two-year battle between the City of Sammamish, Washington, and Eastside Local 2878 members, the City has agreed, by a vote of 5-2, to maintain its service agreement with Eastside Fire and Rescue for seven more years.
“With support of the City’s citizens, the right decision was made here,” says Local 2878 President Jon Wiseman. “We work hard to ensure the safety of not just the 58,000 people in Sammamish, but also to thousands more who live in four other King County fire taxing districts.”
In 2012, the City began signaling that it wanted out of the regional contract it shares with Issaquah, North Bend and Fire Districts 10 and 38, and unincorporated areas of King County. Some Council members wanted more control over the cost of emergency service and believed service would be cheaper if the City went out its own.
Local 2878 leaders met with Sammamish City Council members as soon as they sensed discontent from the City administration.
At first, the City claimed that it was not actively considering separation from the regional agreement, but on further investigation, Local 2878 members learned that the city manager and others were actively discussing it.
In response, Eastside Local 2878 launched a public relations campaign to let people know that the City was making decisions about emergency service without input from the fire fighters.
“We discovered that there were a lot of people who supported us and did not want a change and probable reduction in service,” says Wiseman. “As soon as they heard, they packed three City Council meetings to speak out against separation.”
Meanwhile, City leaders tried to make reassurances that separating from its agreement with Eastside Fire and Rescue would not reduce the level of service. Accordingly, they created a Technical Advisory Board and hired an outside consultant to assess emergency service needs. The study concluded that public safety would not be jeopardized.
“Most departments of comparable size cost $1 to $2 million more than the City was paying for our service,” says Wiseman. “To meet the City’s goal of cost reduction, we knew it could only be done by cutting staff and resources, a clear public safety risk.”
In the end, the Sammamish City Council listened to the voice of reason from Local 2878 and the public. As part of the new agreement, the City was able to negotiate a new payment system that will save the City more than $400,000 annually.
The new agreement begins January 1, 2015.