B.C.C. ATTEMPTING POWER GRAB OVER FIRE PROTECTION
News Writer John Marshall
October 8, 2015
GRANTS PASS , OREGON. —Josephine County's Board of County Commissioners is proposing a "fire protection services ordinance" as it is known in the draft, that would give them ultimate control over who does business in fire protection and prevention enabling them to possibly create a monopoly if they so choose. When reading this draft it becomes obvious that if Josephine county stayed out of the fire business and left the private companies to their own devices things would be better for everyone. A fire district would establish funding for all fire companies at an equal share to fire companies and consumers as well but the problem is that government is involved. Rural Metro was bought out by AMR based in Arizona which has a exclusive franchise here in this county. Do we want to give an exclusive franchise to a company that cannot realistically respond to the outreaches of the county when they are based in Grants Pass?
The county has shown in the past that they do grant franchises to specific companies, such as Charter Cable, SOS, and AMR. These companies have no competition here in Josephine County. If this ordinance or a fire district were formed then preferential franchises will still exist.
I asked Charlie Chase the retired State Deputy Fire Marshal what he thought of this ordinance and he is in favor of standards and a fire district and he also said the that this ordinance would not be needed if a district were formed. He said, "this battle has been going on for a very long time and Josephine County would definitely benefit from forming a fire district with appropriate standards".
Why doesn't Josephine county stay out of the fire business and let the private sector hash it out. Why is Milton Freewater County and Josephine County the only counties that subscribe to privatizing the fire services? If every fire district were to meet the standards which are well thought out, then county fire dept and rural Metro could co-exist as they are both needed. There is no way to respond properly with a fire company in town while the fire is in Wolf Creek or O'Brian. Wolf Creek has fought long and hard to come up to standards and would be the proper response for a fire in Wolf Creek. Can the county afford to put their eggs all in one basket? No, and the public can't either. Mobilization and response time are at the heart of this matter.
County fire dept is likely to get the axe if the commissioners get this ordinance passed and would let Rural Metro take the franchise which in reality gives AMR a double franchise.
Rural metro has an unfair advantage in that they can get a better ISO (insurance service organization) rating because they have gone to the city and asked if they can share the fire hydrants in the city and the city said yes. Grants Pass fire service has an ISO rating of two or three mainly because they have the available water all over the city. But County Fire Dept. doesn't have that luxury because they are in areas that don't have as many fire hydrants and would require the County Fire Dept. to install more water storage just to keep up with standards and receive a better ISO rating.
Rural Metro on the other hand has six locations while only using three so they get the advantage of having six locations with water and that equates to a better ISO rating for Rural Metro. County Fire Dept. has an ISO rating of six something Rural Metro has maintained for some time now but is now claiming to have a rating of 5 which they claim makes County Fire less effective and that is simply not true.
County Fire has been very vigilant to raise their ISO rating to 6 to compete with Rural Metro or any competition that comes along. Their equipment, training and standards meet or exceed all standards. County Fire is very frugal about their spending as they cannot afford to squander funds.
According to former Commissioner Harold Hagen "this kind of ordinance was attempted back in 1990 when then commissioners Calvert, Brown, and McGregor made an attempt at passing such an ordinance". As we know, it was overwhelmingly voted down by the public and this attempt may hopefully suffer the same fate.
Out of this proposed ordinance, there will be a fire board established that will have up to eleven members appointed by the BCC and not elected by the public, The fire board only answers to the BCC or their delegated board and is not accountable to the public. The fire board is to have representatives' from the following, One from the Sheriff's Office, one from Josephine County Fire Defense Board, one from the Grants Pass Public Safety, one 9-1-1 public safety answering point (PSAP) and two from the public.
There is some concern with Section 19 the severance clause which states, (If any portion of this ordinance is for any reason held invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction the remainder shall not be affected thereby shall remain in full force and effect.) Is this is how they want to circumvent the constitution by saying we don't care if it is unconstitutional we are going to do it anyway? This clause was in the 1990 standards as well that was voted down by the public.
This is not a good ordinance for the fire companies or the public and gives too much power to the BCC. Prices will soar and we would be left holding the bag when there's not enough protection out in the rural areas of the county.
People who live within Grants Pass city limits pay a yearly fee that is not proportional to every resident as some choose to not pay for the coverage. Example being one guy pays $400.00 a year for protection but his neighbor pays nothing, but if a fire broke out the neighbor would receive services to extinguish the fire. But because he doesn't pay a yearly fee he will be billed the full amount for a fire. What we need is for government to get out of the way and let the private sector handle things on their own.
A fire district would establish an ASA (assigned service area) pertaining to all involved and every company would be on the same page and they would know what area is theirs to respond to. This can also be accomplished by the private sector as well. Complaints about the wrong fire company showing up would be eliminated but the private sector can deal with these problems better than any governmental agency, which by the way does not have a good track record. No governmental agency has ever produced anything and essentially are inept while squandering tax payer money.
In these times of extreme drought wouldn't it would behoove us to keep all companies working to better insure a good response time as well as a good reasonably priced service. John D. Rockefeller once said "competition is a sin" and evidently the BCC thinks the same way. Competition is welcomed by the private sector because it encourages companies to improve their performances and response times.
Competition is healthy as prices would likely find a happy medium and would not allow for price gouging to take place if the local government would just stay out of private businesses. When government gets involved with private business it is called fascism. Government involved in health care, transportation and alike for instance have created nightmares for the public. When the public is better informed they will make better choices and they will know what they want out of fire services. More on this story as it develops.
Note: Some Jo-Co residents are upset over Rural Metro monopoly attempt and switched their fire protection to County Fire & Security, 220 Peach St. Merlin, OR., 97532 — 541-479-6636 and we're told that they saved on average of 30% and got the same or better fire protection.
NWV will reveal how your highly paid public servants want to:
Put meters on your well to monitor your water consumption.
2- The power company (working with the government) will install (by force) a Smart Meter on your house so they can monitor your electric consumption.
3- Fine you for burning wood to heat your home for polluting the air
4- Charge you for every mile you drive your gasoline or electric powered car.
5- Confiscate food storage from the people during a manufactured or natural crisis.
6 - Create a Snitch Society: Turn your neighbor in for anything that the government deems inappropriate. (It's called, "See something say Something")
7- Create Community Oriented Policing.
All they need to accomplish this is your money and blind trust.
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Marshall is NWVs news writer for Josephine County