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Santa plays at being fire commissioner

Published on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 by Meg Olson

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Fire commissioner Jeff Wilmot thinks fire district meetings should start with the Pledge of Allegiance. Fellow commissioners Stan Riffle and Bill Meursing think it is “not required.”

At the December 12 fire commissioners meeting Wilmot presented the fire district with an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol on November 19. It was donated to the fire district by an anonymous donor who asked that the pledge be recited at the beginning of each district meeting. 

“I think the flag is appropriate,” said commissioner Stan Riffle who attended the meeting by speakerphone, a stuffed Santa taking his place at the table. “I do not think the pledge of allegiance is necessary.” 

“I agree that it’s not required but if you deny us the opportunity I think it would be sad,” Wilmot responded, adding most other 
fire districts and legislative bodies begin their meetings with the pledge.

Riffle said he did not feel it “appropriate” to approve the suggestion “at this time” but he felt it should remain as an item of business for future meetings. Wilmot responded by rising and reciting the pledge, joined by several audience members.

“I appreciate his approval of America,” Riffle said. “I just think we should be in line with other fire districts.”

A fast and dirty survey of a handful of Whatcom County fire districts turned up only one, District 7 in Ferndale, that begin their business meetings with the pledge. The cities of Lynden, Blaine, Ferndale and Bellingham all begin their council meetings with the pledge, as does Whatcom County Council.

As commissioners moved into their business meeting they approved $52,913 in payables for the month of November, a sharp increase in usual monthly expenditures. 

The total included $2,518 for a stair chair to safely move patients on staircases, $2,268 for office furniture, $6,973 for defibrillators to be placed in the community and $22,879 to outfit 11 new firefighters in protective clothing. “It’s very, very high because we brought these extra people on board to serve this community,” chief Christopher Carleton said. “We checked our existing stock and were able to only fit one person.” 

The levy resolution was unanimously approved without a one percent increase but commissioner Meursing clarified the district retained the right to take the increase in the future if needed. “For the benefit of the district we need to hold onto the levy offered us,” Riffle said.

The meeting was continually disrupted during the chief’s report by dialing noises and Riffle grew increasingly frustrated. “There’s someone constantly interrupting us!” he said through the dialing noises. “Somebody in your outer office. Nobody’s doing it here.”

Commissioners agreed to consider a request from the water district to hook into the fire district’s septic field, but only after seeking expert advice about whether it would not compromise the fire station’s system. 

The meeting’s agenda did not include a public comment period, and Meursing adjourned the meeting after all agenda items were covered. In response, Wilmot asked if there were any audience questions. Meursing countered by repeating, “The meeting is adjourned. If you want to take questions, you do it on your own.” It is not known if the district has implemented a comment-free meeting policy or how this meeting’s agenda was developed by commissioners.

Audience member Robert Dean and Carleton had a wide-ranging discussion about emergency medical coverage in Point Roberts, while the other audience members slowly left.

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