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New Community Advisory Group Formed to Shape Strategy for Enumclaw Fire Department

The first meeting of the newly formed Community Advisory Group (CAG) takes place this Tuesday, July 17 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at headquarters in downtown Enumclaw.

Enumclaw /King County Fire District No. 28 has assembled a group of citizens to advise its three-member Board of Commissioners regarding community expectations and more specifically, to help develop a strategic plan that in part sets priorities for the department's operating and capital budgets as well as future program development.

According to Fire Chief Joe Clow, the development of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) is in line with the department's Master Plan recommendation as well as an industry best practice.

The Master Plan, prepared in 2008 before the department was annexed completely into King County Fire District No. 28, identified close to 200 recommendations for the department in a variety of areas including organizational structure, management, planning for emergency medical services, risk management, human resources and staffing.

Since the voter-approved annexation in November 2011, however, several recommendations became moot or were otherwise outdated. Clow said the department has been paring down the recommendations to "the most important and most immediate," which includes this advisory group.

"A major goal of this community group is to develop a set of community expectations from which the EFD will draft a new strategic plan," Clow said in an email to Patch.

The department drew the ire of community members beginning late last year after an update was published in The Courier-Herald that in part announced it had purchased a property on Roosevelt Avenue for $495,000 when it was assessed for tax purposes at just $55,000. ()

A subsequent story that Patch reported this past March that the Washington State Auditor's Office found in 2010 that the Commissioners violated purchasing and conflict of interest laws over a modular home now being used as a dormitory at the district's Cumberland station further stoked the dissent. () Since then, a group of citizens have written to State Auditor Brian Sonntag about their concerns over the department's spending of taxpayer money, zeroing on the cost of the modular home project that came to a final pricetag of $307,411.

However, Clow said the timing of the CAG has nothing to do with the recent discord from some vocal community members. "It is simply time to move forward with the next phase of developing the EFD," he wrote. "Starting now in the middle of the year allows the CAG to be directly involved in the planning process for development of our 2013 budget, as well as, the development of a long term strategic plan."

According to the CAG's membership and operating procedures, the group will consist of seven to nine volunteer members from the community who are appointed by the fire chief. They are intended to represent a wide spectrum of the community including St. Elizabeth Hospital as a partner in emergencial medical services, Mutual of Enumclaw, the Enumclaw schools and business communities, the local healthcare community, community service, legal and two members at large representing both residents within the city of Enumclaw as well as in the unincorporated areas of the district.

The CAG is formed as a permanent functional advisory group to the Board of Fire Commissioners and members are asked to serve a minimum of one year. The frequency of meetings would be determined by the CAG with the exception of this -- its first year -- where it is expected a minimum of four meetings would be held.

The CAG will abide by the Open Public Meetings Act meaning they are open to the public. The first meeting is Tuesday, July 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the station headquarters. 

As an aside, the department's website www.enumclawfire.com is currently down as the department reviews site security after it was recently hacked. Clow said he's unsure when the site will be back up but we at Patch will keep checking.

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