Central Emergency Services held a strategic planning meeting Tuesday at the Sterling Senior Center, the first in a series of planned forums aimed at gathering public feedback on the operations of the agency.
“CES has a vision for the future, but does it fall in line with the expectations of the public,” said CES chief Chris Mokracek before leading a presentation. “We want some input to see what people like as far as what we’re doing, things they’d like to see us improve upon, things they have questions about.”
The chief reviewed the operations of CES for Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly member and Sterling resident Charlie Pierce, the only community member in attendance. Surveys were available as well as copies of the agency’s master plan, which was updated previously in October 2012.
The surveys ask residents to rate the agency’s service priorities and service expectations on a scale of one to eight. Emergency medical services, public safety education and water rescues are among the service priorities. Responders’ demeanor and maintaining fiscal responsibility are listed in the expectations section, among others.
On the back of the survey, there is space to write suggestions for improvement.
The master plan lists 51 actions for the agency, but it serves more as a living document. A committee wrote the original plan in 1996, and they have removed numerous actions since the plan’s creation.
Original goals on the plan included adding stations at Kasilof and Funny River — both areas now have stations. Also, due to public education programs that CES continues to provide, kids causing fires has declined.
“We’ve seen a real decrease in juvenile fire starters. It’s still an issue, but our programs have been successful at curbing it,” Mokracek said.
The plan’s top priorities include keeping the tax burden as low as possible while providing quality services, scheduling an annual meeting with the borough Mayor’s office prior to the budget process and examining appropriate service fees. All of the above actions are listed as priority 1, or “must do.”
Other actions listed under priority 3, defined as actions to pursue that are not presently feasible, include researching the costs associated with installing all stations with fire sprinklers and expansion of the water rescue program.
During his presentation, Mokracek detailed the logistics of CES:
n The agency provides services from Mile 58 near Jim’s Landing to Mile 119 near Clam Gulch and communities in-between.
n Medical emergency responses make up 71 percent of the agency’s calls for service. This is partly due to the Central Peninsula’s older population. Fire calls rank fifth, or 5 percent of responses.
n The Soldotna area has the largest call volume. For this reason, Station 1 has a maximum and minimum staffing requirement of four fire fighters.
“The four fire fighters at Soldotna isn’t because the city deserves them more than any of the other areas,” he said. “But as far as risk analysis of where the next call will be, it will probably be Soldotna,” he said.
Mokracek also discussed how the Insurance Services Office rates the agency’s coverage, which affects property owners fire insurance mill rates. The office rated CES in 2007.
The office rates on a scale of ten, one being the best and ten the worst. It gave Sterling a rating of seven, but informed CES the rating would worsen if water capabilities did not improve. Fire insurance rates would have increased by 41 percent. CES added a tanker and a pump station on Oliver Road in Sterling, and during the next inspection the office gave a rating of six, thereby lowering taxes.
All CES stations have ISO ratings of six, except within the city limits of Soldotna, which is rated three.
The annual tax on $200,000 homes is $530, Mokracek said.
CES is urging the public to attend the remaining forums scheduled for Monday, Jan. 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Kasilof, Kasilof Fire Station; Thursday, Jan. 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Funny River, Funny River Community Center; Monday, Jan. 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Soldotna, Emergency Response Center, 253 Wilson Lane; and Wednesday, Jan. 30, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the K-Beach Fire Station.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.