One year ago, Chris Mokracek became the new chief of Central Emergency Services, and what a year it has been.
Construction began on a new emergency response center that was to house CES administration offices; the fire and medical response service area was expanded to include Funny River, Kasilof and the Cohoe Loop area; the department went to the voters and received their approval for a $2.5 million bond issue for its expansion; due to retirements, CES lost its assistant chief, its training officer, one captain and an engineer; and, halfway through the year, a new Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor took office.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed my first year,” Mokracek said Monday.
“I’ve had the support of the community and of our personnel both paid and on-call (volunteers),” he said.
Mokracek, who came to the Kenai Peninsula from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula April 4, 2005, replaced Jeff Tucker as chief.
Tucker and then-borough Mayor Dale Bagley did not say why Tucker resigned suddenly after serving only 2 1/2 years as chief.
Mokracek said he has established a “good working relationship” with Mayor John Williams, who was elected last fall.
“We have very open communications with the mayor’s office,” Mokracek said. “He’s been very supportive with our expanded service area and with the 2007 budget.”
When asked about the change in plan for CES administration to move across the street into the emergency response center under construction, Mokracek said the mayor had wondered if the CES service board would explore the option of not moving.
“It came up during the (borough administration) transition interviews,” he said.
“The new building would not improve our response time; it would not lower insurance rates (for homeowners in the service area); there would be no noticeable positive direct effect to the citizens,” he said.
On the other hand, it would increase the CES budget in order to move offices across Wilson Lane, new desks would be needed for the new building and many of the remodel issues required for the existing building would remain.
“It would have been a pretty office for me, but I didn’t need that,” Mokracek said.
Having administration across the street from operations people also would have created a disconnect, he said.
Instead, CES is looking at remodel options for the existing building at Binkley Street and the Sterling Highway.
Besides the building issue, CES is now actively recruiting for 20 additional on-call volunteers to staff the Funny River and Kasilof areas.
“We would like to have the on-call ranks at 50,” Mokracek said.
Toward that goal, he is conducting an emergency medical services academy to recruit people who would be able to respond to medical emergencies only.
“Eighty percent of our calls are emergency medical,” he said.
Until now, on-call volunteers were required to become firefighter qualified as well, but Mokracek said the physical demands of the firefighter considerably limit those who might qualify as EMTs only.
“It would provide quicker response for us to put a medically trained person at someone’s bedside,” he said.
The coming year also calls for the purchase of equipment for Kasilof including a pumper-tanker truck and a first-response brush truck equipped with medical response supplies.
The current plan does not include an ambulance for Kasilof this year, but one would probably be requested for 2007.
The Funny River fire station will be remodeled to include crew quarters and Mokracek anticipates asking for additional staffing for Funny River in the 2007 budget.
A 1,500-gallon tanker at Funny River will be replaced with a 3,000-gallon tanker and its water supply will be improved with a high- volume well.
Mokracek said the Funny River community already has received a lower insurance rating for anyone within five driving miles of the fire station.
“It’s now at seven and it was nine,” he said. “People should contact their insurance company for lower adjusted rates.”
The Funny River station currently is staffed with on-call volunteers, and Mokracek said CES plans to provide full-time staffing during the coming high-risk season, “for instance, when there’s a burn ban in place.”
As he puts the first busy year behind, Mokracek said the experience on the Kenai Peninsula has been “awesome.”
“The whole family loves it here,” he said.
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