Fire district commissioners tell their side of things

Recently, there have been a couple of front page articles in The Daily World that question the honesty and integrity of Grays Harbor Fire District No. 8. Claims were made by the City of Hoquiam administrators and the articles in question arose from aggressively-worded interviews with those administrators. These claims are unprofessional and untrue. Certain statements were made regarding comments allegedly made by GH Fire District No. 8 Chief John Collum. These statements are also unprofessional and untrue.

The attorney retained by Fire District No. 8 sent a certified letter to Hoquiam asking for a public retraction of all comments made in both the media and emails sent to selected residents of Fire District No. 8. Since we have neither seen nor heard anything from the Hoquiam City administration, we feel an open letter to the residents of the fire district is in order.

First of all, in no way does this dispute extend to the Hoquiam firefighters, EMTs and paramedics who have always responded professionally with both integrity and compassion.

In July 2013, the City of Hoquiam terminated the contract for ambulance services with GH Fire District No. 8. In October 2013, the City of Hoquiam sent an Ambulance Services Agreement to Fire District No. 8 to be reviewed and signed. Fire District No. 8 reviewed, revised and returned a signed contract to the City of Hoquiam. Essentially, this was a counter-proposal but apparently the city officials did not even read it. The contract was then signed by both the mayor and the finance director for the city of Hoquiam on approximately Nov. 14, 2013.

In earlier contracts between Fire District No. 8 and the City of Hoquiam, it was agreed that if Hoquiam ALS (Advanced Life Support) met Fire District No. 8 at Copalis Crossing for patient hand off, Fire District No. 8 would be billed $262; if Hoquiam has to travel as far as Fire District No. 8, the fee would be $450.

Our revision to the contract, dated Nov. 14, said that if the patient is billed for services by Hoquiam, and Hoquiam is paid any amount on this bill, no fee will be assigned to Fire District No. 8. The revision also provided that if no payment is made within 120 days by either the patient or their agent, then Fire District No. 8 will pay the assigned fee as applicable. When Fire District No. 8 found that the City of Hoquiam was billing both the patient for a full fee (as much as $1,800) and Fire District No. 8 for the additional fee of $262, we felt that this was unfair (called double dipping by some; our attorney calls it “unjust enrichment”). Fire District No. 8 continued to be billed a fee of $262 and kept posing this question to the City of Hoquiam: “Why were we still getting billed?” Because we had a signed contract in our possession, we could not understand why Hoquiam was stonewalling us on this issue. After we raised these questions, the city abruptly cancelled our contract and followed with inflammatory — and false — newspaper articles and emails.

What became clear to everyone was that the City of Hoquiam administrators neglected to read the contract before they signed it.

The unprofessional and negative way this was handled is an example of the kind of negotiation tactics used by the City of Hoquiam. Fire District No. 8 does not expect a free ride, but we do expect fairness in inter-agency business dealings. We also expect that the City of Hoquiam would honor the agreement it signed and then breached. There was never and attempt to “trick” the City of Hoquiam. Fire District No. 8 did what every agency should do when negotiating a contract: read it. A common business practice is that if you disagree with certain terms in a contract, you make a counter-offer and return it to the other party to the contract for review. That is not trickery; it is simply good business practice.

All Grays Harbor Fire District No. 8 did was act in the best fiscal interest of our residents.

Jim Hatton and Ed Gibbs are commissioners for Grays Harbor Fire District No. 8.


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