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Fire board, Healthcare District, Morro Hills seats

North County Fire Protection District Board

The North County Fire Protection (NCFPD) board has three seats open this election year and four candidates vying for those.

Ruth “Ruthie” Harris and Richard Olson are incumbents, whereas Wayne Hooper and Paul Schaden are new contenders.

Hooper and Schaden are looking to step into a new role but both bring with them experience in the fire industry. Hooper is a fire captain and Schaden is a retired fire captain.

The NCFPD board is governed by five elected officials. Their duties include adopting district policies, determining legal actions, pursuing ongoing district business, reviewing and adjusting the annual budget and more.

In the following question and answer series, these candidates offer their views on matters relating to NCFPD.

Please provide your full name as listed on the ballot, occupation and/or retired occupation.

Wayne S. Hooper: Fire captain for the City of Carlsbad

Paul H. Schaden: Fire captain (retired)

Ruth “Ruthie” Harris: Business owner, incumbent

Richard Olson: Incumbent

Where do you reside and how long have you lived in the area?

Hooper: “Fifteen years at [my] Fallbrook residence.”

Schaden: “Thirty-eight years at [my] Fallbrook residence.”

Harris: “I have lived in Fallbrook since 1982.”

Olson: “I have lived in the same Fallbrook house since 1977.”

How do you feel you can be of benefit to the board?

Hooper: “I will be a benefit to the board by bringing over 25 years of experience in the area of emergency services, nearly 20 of those in the fire service. I am a resident first and foremost, but my experience and knowledge of the fire service will ensure that informed decisions will be made that will benefit our customers, the citizens, as I believe the current board is doing.”

Schaden: “My 38-plus years in the Fire Service [CAL-FIRE/CDF].”

Harris: “Since I do not have a firefighting background, I ask questions and do research on the issues brought before the board so that I can make informed decisions with the safety of our residents and firefighters the top priority.”

Olson: “The decisions that are made on this board could be life-threatening or life-saving. The responsibility of the board should be to set the policies that the community expects, hire the right people to carry out these policies and then step back and let the experts that you hired carry out the policies. I want to assure that the cooperative working arrangement between the board, labor, management and the community continues to flourish.”

What are the top three issues you feel NCFPD needs to address at this time?

Hooper: “1) Disaster preparedness: the fire department needs to continue with educating the public about fire dangers and the importance of maintaining clearance around their property. They also need to continue with the enforcement aspect of these requirements. 2) Infrastructure: the current condition of most of the fire stations is far behind today’s standards. The stations are old and outdated. Our fire stations need to be remodeled or rebuilt to reflect the pride we have in our community. 3) Future planning: the fire department needs a plan to keep up with the growth in our community and to add a station or stations when and if it is needed. This includes resources, such as additional equipment and personnel.”

Schaden: “We need to establish a truck company for better fire suppression. We need to build a new fire station where the trailer is now located at Station #5.”

Harris: “Outdated/additional stations, additional recourses, future growth.”

Olson: “1) With the budget crisis that the State of California is in, we need to carefully evaluate all spending. Not that we have not in the past, but we must think outside the box to make sure that we prioritize any spending to make sure that it is beneficial to the overall operation of the department for the benefit of the community. 2) Infrastructure. We have fire stations that are barely standing. We must address this situation and, in light of the budget situation, do all we can to provide meaningful solutions. 3) As a result of the Standards of Cover Survey that was just completed, we must implement all of the suggestions that are financially feasible to improve our response times to the scene of a fire or accident and to the corresponding delivery location or hospital.”

Do you agree that the district should consistently pay existing firefighters overtime, or if the hours warrant on an annual basis, should more firefighters be hired?

Hooper: “The fire department should always strive to have a fully staffed department but overtime will always be a part of the fire service. Overtime is mandated by law when firefighters work past their normal hours, such as late calls, training, et cetera. Also, firefighters work overtime when they fill in for others who are sick, on vacation or need to fill a vacancy. I do not believe the department should hire extra personnel to prevent overtime, as this actually costs more in the long run.”

Schaden: “The manpower we now have is sufficient at this time; however, if we establish a truck company we would need to hire 12 more employees.”

Harris: “The district is reimbursed a percentage of overtime due to strike teams. The overtime that we do pay is less than hiring additional firefighter/paramedics.”

Olson: “As a businessman, I wish that I had the opportunity to pay overtime in lieu of hiring new bodies in some of my key employment positions. It is much more cost-effective to pay a firefighter/paramedic overtime than to hire an additional firefighter/paramedic with all the costs associated with that hire, such as retirement, medical insurance, uniforms <and> training. On the other hand, if the drain on the competency of the overtime body would compromise the performance of the overtime body, then the spot should be filled by a new hire.”

Should the consequences be changed for brush clearing around properties? If so, how?

Hooper: “I am not sure of the exact measures the fire department currently takes to ensure property is cleared, but as mentioned above, one of the most important factors in the loss prevention of property during wildfires is brush clearance. Plenty of notice is given to property owners. If they fail to remove the hazard, the fire department (or authorized contractor) should remove it at the owner’s expense, plus other costs such as administrative costs and time. Enforcement costs need to be paid by noncompliant property owners, not those who do their part in clearance.”

Schaden: “A 100-foot clearance around the property is usually sufficient.”

Harris: “Our brush clearing standards follow the district’s Vegetation Management Ordinance. With the public education the district has been doing regarding brush clearance, there have not been very many that are out of compliance.”

Olson: “To me it is absolutely absurd that we are in a constant battle with environmentalists over the clearing of potential fuel for the next fire. How many times do we have to lose homes and life to support the “one-legged tweek” or other such protected species? Human life is a priority and the sooner we agree to this the sooner we can move ahead with the job of preventing runaway wildfires and not trying to evacuate large areas and then fight raging fires with 70 mph Santa Ana winds devouring everything in sight.”

Are you supported in your candidacy by the firefighters’ union?

Hooper: “Yes, I am proud to be sponsored by the North County Firefighters Association.”

Schaden: “I don’t know; I have not been approached by the union.”

Harris: “I am supported by the Fallbrook Firefighters Association.”

Olson: “I am proud to say that I have been supported by the North County Firefighters Association for the past two elections and I am being supported again this time. Being supported does not mean being in the back pocket.”

Fallbrook Healthcare District

There are two vacant seats on the Fallbrook Healthcare District board but only one individual filed to run with the Registrar of Voters.

Because of that, it will not be a part of the election ballot in November and the Fallbrook Healthcare District will follow the protocol that is required to have new board members appointed by the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors.

Barbara Mroz was the only individual who filed with the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters for one of the open seats with the Fallbrook Healthcare District. Although she appears to be qualified, she still needs to be appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

“It is more a formality, but we cannot assume the Board of Supervisors will appoint her. But most likely, they will,” said Vi Dupre, administrator for the Fallbrook Healthcare District. “The appointment will be held after the election.”

According to Dupre, this situation has happened in the past. In the 2006 election, there were no candidates for one open seat. “Our board interviewed a number of people and recommended Hollis Moyse; he was then appointed by the Board of Supervisors.”

The district has put out a public invitation in print media (Village News) for those who might be interested in the appointment.

Dupre said the invitation encourages citizens to submit letters of interest in the position. At the October 8 board meeting, these interested citizens will make a presentation as to why they would like to serve and list their qualifications.

“From those interviews, the board will make a decision on who they will recommend to the Board of Supervisors for appointment,” said Dupre. “Although the board will make recommendation, that does not mean to say the Board of Supervisors must comply with that recommendation.”

However, more often than not, the Board of Supervisors will lean toward such a recommendation.

Dupre said it is purely speculative as to why the Fallbrook Healthcare District board originally did not garner enough candidates for the election.

“Usually, when there is an issue, people are more likely to come forward and say they will help change things,” she said. “The current board has served this community remarkably well, so there are no problem areas.”

Another reason Dupre offered was that some individuals may have been concerned with possible expenses relating to a political campaign.

“We had five or six people who picked up packets and were interested in the board, but their decision was not to file,” she said. “I would venture [to say] that many of those who picked up documents would be interested in coming forth for a board interview and possible appointment.”

Morro Hills fills two vacant seats

There are two seats that will be vacant in the Morro Hills Community Service District (MHCSD) board (also known as the Road Board). The two appointed incumbents are Thomas Harrington and Kenneth Buccellato.

Each term lasts a length of four years. Because there will not be an official race, the voting for this board will not be part of the November election.

The objective of the MHCSD is to maintain approximately six miles of road, and with it, proper water drainage.

Despite the non-election status, both Harrington and Buccellato offered their views regarding their stance on the MHCSD board.

Please provide your full name as listed on the ballot, occupation and/or retired occupation.

Thomas Gerald Harrington: Senior land surveyor with the County of San Diego

Kenneth James Buccellato: Retired civil engineer CAD manager, general contractor and physics teacher

How long have you been a resident of Morro Hills?

Harrington: “I have lived in Morro Hills for over 20 years.”

Buccellato: “My wife, Karel Hanson, and I are relatively new members of the community. We purchased our home approximately two years ago.”

What qualifications and attributes do you have that are of benefit to the board?

Harrington: “My longstanding experience as a Road Board member and construction experience as a land surveyor help me advise the board and community on our maintenance efforts.”

Buccellato: “I worked for the County of San Diego for 15 years where I was involved with road design and road reconstruction projects. My most recent experience is with a private civil engineering firm where I had a similar role.”

What are the top issues that you want to see the board address? Why?

Harrington: “Road resurfacing in a timely manner is an ongoing challenge for the district. This is due to the limited funds the district is allocated.”

Buccellato: “Road safety will be a major concern along with getting the best value within our budget for maintenance and drainage.”

In your opinion, how successful has the board been in the past regarding problem-solving?

Harrington: “Morro Hills has been fortunate to have ongoing groups of capable volunteers to take up the task of working together on addressing the community’s concerns.”

Buccellato: “Previous board members have dedicated valuable time and work to this board and I am anxious to do the same.”

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