Auditor faults fire district’s recordkeeping

MONROE – Firefighters failed to follow state law when they renovated a station and purchased new equipment, a report prepared by the state Auditor’s Office said.

Monroe Fire District 3, which serves 25,000 people in an area covering about 55 square miles, also didn’t track ambulance billings as closely as the state recommends, state auditors found.

The district has implemented controls to prevent the problems from recurring and, in some cases, sought to have state lawmakers change laws, District 3 Chief Jamie Silva said.

“Of course we need to abide by the law,” he said.

No sanctions or repercussions will be imposed as a result of the findings. Instead, the auditor’s report recommends the district more carefully follow the laws as it conducts business in the future.

One of the problems arose when firefighters helped with a December 2006 remodel of Fire Station 31 in downtown Monroe, the report said.

Under current law, firefighters can’t perform remodel work on projects that cost more than $2,500, Silva said. The district now is backing a proposal to have state lawmakers raise that minimum, he said.

“We’re going to push that the law be changed,” Silva said.

Without having firefighters help with the project, it would have been scrapped, he said.

“We couldn’t have afforded it if we hadn’t used firefighters,” the fire chief said.

The total cost of the remodel was $12,670, the report said.

Auditors also criticized a 2003 purchase of air tanks and masks crews use during fires.

District 3 pooled federal grant money with other fire districts to buy more equipment at a cost savings, Silva said.

The district should have better advertised for vendors, the report said. The district countered, saying the bid was advertised and only one vendor at the time sold the equipment to the all of Western Washington, the papers said.

Auditors also cautioned that the district needs to more carefully monitor ambulance-service billing. The district has made the changes the auditors recommended, Silva said.

“While we never want to have a finding, we don’t feel too bad. We saved the taxpayers money and it wasn’t like we were doing something crooked,” he said.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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