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Chiefs emphasize unity in proposed EMS expansion


Residents of a large section of the Western Kenai Peninsula will have Ballot Measure 1 before them during next month’s municipal election. If approved, it would create a new emergency services area to encompass Anchor Point, Ninilchik and all points in between.
    The proposition was the topic on Wednesday morning’s Coffee Table with Kathleen Gustafson on KBBI.
    The push to create a combined “Western Emergency Service Area” came when the Ninilchik Volunteer Fire Department, a private non-profit organization, experienced staffing and volunteer issues.
    Needless to say, there are plenty of questions, such as these from listener Christine in Anchor Point.
    “Well, I'm kind of wondering since they're going to be merging the two areas, how much of the administration will be merged and therefore money made available by cutting certain administrative positions. Like we won't need to fire chiefs, obviously. We won't need two service boards, obviously. And, how will things be, divvied out, I guess I should say?” she asked. “The money seems to be a little vague on who gets how much and who will be in charge of what areas? Therefore I'm a little confused.  I mean, it sounds to me like Ninilchik is going to make out like a bandit and Anchor Point is really going to be taking up most of the slack of getting this done.”
    Assembly member Brent Johnson of Clam Gulch represents many residents of the area, and has worked on the issue from the start.
    “Yeah, the easy way to look at this is to see the successful model that, the Central Emergency Services has used. They have a fire station in Sterling, so they're representing the community of Sterling. They have one at Funny River, so they're representing the community of Funny River. They have a fire station at Mackey Lakes. That's kind of a training center now, or I'm not exactly sure of the status that, but there's one there. They have one on K-Beach, the representing the community at K-Beach. They have one in Kasilof across from the school. So they're representing the Kasilof community. And then of course the main station is downtown in Soldotna,” Johnson said. “There is a lot of things that can be done when people work together and it works.”
    The fire chiefs for both Anchor Point, John Marsh, and Ninilchik, David Bear, also replied that it was important to look at it as a new, single, service area.
    “I think the main thing is that if approved, this becomes one service area, this becomes one service area with one board, with members from each community. It becomes 10 paid positions, utilized to the best efficiency of that service area. So there's no more mutual aid,” said Chief Bear. “This just boils down to standard operating procedures of how we're going to operate as a combined service area.”
    “What everybody needs to understand is this isn't going to be Anchor Point and Ninilchik. This is one big service area. The savings will come from having one chief, one deputy chief, one mechanic that can be shared, and then the staffing will be for the entire service area and serve the service area as needed,” Chief Marsh said. “So everybody's got to stop looking at it, like Anchor Point’s gonna give up this or, and Ninilchik’s going to do that. It's not going to be Anchor Point Emergency Services and the Ninilchik Emergency Services anymore. It's going to be one service area, one budget, one board, one chief. And we're going to use the manpower to staff the service area where it's needed.”
    The Ninilchik department had been funded by a non-profit, as we mentioned, but Anchor Point EMS also has one, though Chief Marsh says it hasn’t been as active.
    “We haven't really ironed this part out yet. What probably will happen in the future is both of those nonprofits will go away and we'll create one new one for the entire area. Or maybe we'll just keep one of the existing ones. But like I said, if we're going to have a nonprofit, that's going to support the service area, it's going to be one. There's not going to be Ninilchik or Anchor Point.”
    The working group recommended an overall levy of 2.95 mils. A description in the ballot measure summary says a joint service area with a mill rate of 2.95 would provide for 10 full time employees, be able to build a sustainable fund balance with reasonable capital outlays.
    Proposition 1 will appear on the ballots only of residents in the affected areas.


Local News Anchor Point Volunteer Fire DepartmentNinilchik Emergency ServicesAssembly Member Brent JohnsonChief John MarshChief David Bear
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