As of Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Ask a dozen people how to solve a problem and you’ll get a dozen answers, and after that about as many arguments about whose idea is the best.
Residents in the Tahoe Ridge area are as conflicted – as viewed from a public hearing last week — on the fire protection provided through the Ridge Runner Volunteer Fire Department. But the commonality heard here is that such service is essential to protect both homes and lands.
So, it’s a warranted move by the Idaho County Commission to allow the department to pursue a vote this November on whether to form a taxing district to support operations.
Such a move was tried 10 years ago and denied by the commission, with those in opposition stating their commitment to support the district through volunteering and fund-raising. But at last Tuesday’s hearing, fire chief Blaine Feinman noted those problems – insufficient funds and volunteers – continue, leaving those few who do serve to fill the gaps from their own pockets.
That frustrating lack of support — and the criticism and nitpicking that goes with it — is not surprising to anyone trying to run volunteer organizations, from community festivals to EMTs.
When it comes to firefighting, that service is critical to protect lives and property. It needs to be done. It’s great when you can provide that service privately, but if you can’t, the option isn’t to ignore this public need. A compulsory option to support this needs to be enacted.
One point raised last week was the structure of a fire district allows its patrons to have a say in its operations, right at the start in electing the three-person board of directors to oversee its management and operations. That oversight can be lacking in a volunteer organization but not within an entity bound to operate under state law for accountability and transparency.
Petitioners can make their own arguments for supporting the district as we head into the election this fall, and patrons will have the option to formally decide the matter. And if that decision is no, then there had better be an honest attempt this time to commit to supporting management and operations of Ridge Runner firefighting service.