Village News - Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

By Jeff Pack
Staff Writer 

Egkan ready to serve North County Fire Protection District

 

Last updated 10/28/2020 at 4:42pm

Jeff Egkan

Village News/Courtesy photo

Jeff Egkan is running unopposed for the District 4 seat on the North County Fire Protection District board of directors.

Jeff Egkan in District 4, along with Cindy Acosta in District 5, is running unopposed in the upcoming election for a director seat on the North County Fire Protection District board of directors.

In District 1, however, candidates Lee De Meo and David Kennedy will be put to a vote to decide who joins Egkan and Acosta on the board that will certainly be overhauled when it's all said and done.

Village News posed questions to all the candidates, De Meo and Kennedy had their answers published in previous editions of the newspaper, and Egkan responded as well. Acosta has not responded.

Though he isn't challenged in this race, Village News thought it would be beneficial for the public to read his responses and understand a little more about the future NCFPD director.

Why do you feel you are uniquely qualified to represent your district on the NCFPD board?

Egkan: I believe it is our responsibility to be civically engaged. That engagement can take many forms, including volunteerism, support for local businesses and participation on local boards. As residents of Fallbrook in unincorporated San Diego County, our local boards are essentially our city council. All of our local boards and districts – school, planning and health are important. Because our police services are county-controlled, our local fire district is the only public safety agency that we have control of, and therefore it is extremely important.

I have been engaged in my community for the past few years, both politically and through volunteering, most recently with the Fallbrook Food Pantry. My political activities have included outreach through email, calls and knocking on numerous doors throughout Gird Valley and Rancho Monserate. From these conversations with hundreds of residents, I have a good sense of local concerns. As a NCFPD board director I will continue to speak to the community to keep abreast of, and try to respond to, concerns related to fire safety and medical emergencies.

Proposition A not passing was a huge blow to the district. How can you help guide the district through future funding issues?

Egkan: The defeat of Proposition A in 2019 was indeed a huge blow to the district. Proposition A would have raised $20 million and the cost to each property owner would have been only $60 per year. Unfortunately Proposition A was a parcel tax, not a general obligation bond, and therefore required two-thirds voter approval, whereas general obligation bonds require only 55% approval to pass. It is difficult to get two-thirds of voters to agree on anything, much less a tax increase, even a relatively small one. Proposition A did receive about 58% approval, which would have meant passage had it been a general obligation bond.

Proposition A funds would have been used strictly for repairs and remodeling of existing facilities and construction of a new fire station. Station 4 at Pala Mesa is an old doublewide trailer and its limitations impact both emergency response times and the safety of personnel. Station 4 is responsible for nearly all of District 4, stretching from Lake Rancho Viejo, the new communities east of Interstate 15, all the way down to Gird Valley and Live Oak Park Road.

In the last 15 years, I have worked on six bond campaigns, both for and against. Most recently I was vice president of a state-registered ballot committee.

If it becomes necessary to address long-term facility needs through a bond, I feel that my experience will be an asset to that effort.

What are the top three issues facing the district in the coming years?

Egkan: As I previously mentioned, the district faces challenges in funding of deferred facility maintenance, and it will eventually need to replace the inadequate building that houses Station 4.

The second challenge, related to the previous, is the closure in 2014 of our hospital. All of the three area hospitals are a minimum 25-minute drive. This increased travel, including the additional time away from the district for the paramedic and EMT, puts a financial burden on the district. Maintaining this increased cost has exacerbated the issue of deferred maintenance. Unlike many fire districts that contract private ambulance services, NCFPD trains and staffs its own paramedic and ambulance services. Private ambulance services typically charge much more for transport, sometimes twice as much as currently charged by NCFPD, so maintaining that local control not only means better quality, it is a good value for district residents.

The third challenge is the dramatic increase in wildfires throughout the state. When, due to mutual-aid agreements, our district firefighter crews are away, it can leave our local resources stretched thin. There is no longer a fire season as evidenced by the November Camp Fire and our own Lilac Fire in December. We need to make sure that we have adequate staffing to cover both the mutual aid requirements and a growing population throughout the year.

What are three things you would like to accomplish or shore up with the district if you are elected?

Egkan: Aside from the aforementioned issues, I would like to see enhanced communication between the community and the district. One advantage I see to the recent redistricting is that the new by-district versus at-large system can facilitate dialogue with residents. While all communities share certain fire and emergency concerns, there are concerns specific to each neighborhood or community. I have started reaching out to the communities that comprise District 4 to talk about these issues.

Related to that issue, I'd like to make sure that there is dialogue between all district stakeholders. To make an objective and informed decision on behalf of the district, it is important to first hear from multiple perspectives.

Long-term I'd like to ensure that we retain both district independence and retain local control over our emergency medical response. There is fire service consolidation throughout the state and maintaining local control will retain our community connection to our fire services and retain the service and value provided by our medical emergency response.

What do you bring to the board personally or professionally that is currently lacking or will add to the board in your opinion?

Egkan: I currently operate and manage our small avocado grove here in Fallbrook. Additionally, my wife and I have recently developed a wedding and event venue on our property in Big Bear. As a small-business owner, I am familiar with working with budgets, albeit one with fewer zeros. In developing a new business, I am aware of the need for prudence, while staying mindful of opportunities for growth.

Over the past 15 years, I've had the opportunity to work with both major parties and independents. I am looking forward to working alongside the other board directors in serving our community.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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