Q-and-A with Superstition Fire and Medical District board candidate Kathleen Chamberlain

Kathleen Chamberlain

Three area residents are running for two seats on the Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board in the Nov. 6 general election. The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent e-mailed questionnaires to the candidates. They will be posted online in the order they were received.

Name: Kathleen Chamberlain

Age: 67

Education: Masters in technology, bachelor of science. (Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, University of Michigan); School of Fire Staff and Command (Eastern Michigan University); paramedic; University of Michigan High School (Ann Arbor, Michigan).

Town/neighborhood: Apache Junction, Pinal County.

Present or most recent business/employment: City of Ann Arbor Fire Department, fire marshal, retired, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Previous public office, boards and commissions (and what years): Representative to the following (2007-12): City of Ann Arbor, Michigan, planning commission (including plan and concept review of all new development, construction, and renovation within the city and potential impact within the county); Building Board of Appeals, City of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Housing Board of Appeals, City of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Fire District Fire Prevention and Investigation Commission, Washtenaw County, Michigan; Hoarding Task Force Commission, Washtenaw County, Michigan; and University of Michigan Planning Commission.

What makes you different from the other candidates? How will you make a difference on the Superstition Fire and Medical District?: I offer the upcoming board great depth of knowledge, understanding, and experience in the fire/medical service, working with city, county, state, and country government, as well as budgeting responsibility. I’ve been active in the fire/medical service for 30 years as a firefighter, paramedic, driver/operator, line officer, fire inspector/investigator, and retiring as fire marshal. I’ve been “on the line” in fire suppression and medical response, and part of administration. In those years I have worked within a career union department and on two paid on call departments. The depth and variety of my experience and training in the fire service has been extensive. Prior to my fire service career, I worked for the University of Michigan as part of the Facility Planning & Construction Administration division. We were responsible for campus and facility development, new projects, renovations, and their multi-million-dollar budgets. I am familiar and experienced with the fiscal responsibility and importance of budgeting and accounting for taxpayer dollars. The Fire Board won’t be a training ground for me. In the fire service, I worked for a fire department that over the years was reduced to having serious financial challenges, services and personnel cuts, unsupportive city administration, weak fire leadership, poor spending decisions, and increased response times. I’ve seen the negative impact reduction to community services has to the safety and welfare of its district and the destruction in morale such a dissolving structure leaves. I will use my professional experience and work with my constituents and other board members to insure that this never occurs to our SFMD. I intend to give the residents the best “bang for their buck”, prioritizing what is important to the community, providing top notch fire and medical services, while being responsible with our tax dollars.

What is the role of the Superstition Fire and Medical District Governing Board?: The SFMD Fire Board has a fiduciary responsibility to its residents, businesses, taxpayers, employees and visitors. It also has a humanitarian obligation to assure their fire and medical health and safety. Also:
•The board is responsible for overseeing/deciding all matters pertaining to the fire district.
•It must represent and act in the best interests of this community to provide the best service at the best dollar value.
•It has the full responsibility and accountability of the budget and the tax rate, representing the needs of the community. (It is the voice of the community to the fire chief)
•The board provides supervision, direction, and appointment of the fire chief and works with fire administration to make sure the district receives the best care for its tax assessment.
•The board may decide to commit the district into contracts for services.
•It holds monthly board meetings.
•It represents the fire and medical needs of the district and how the SFMD must best meet those needs.
•The board should be open to interaction with its public to listen to the needs of their constituents and to provide direction to meet those needs.
•It must be responsive to the needs of its employees.
•The members of the Board should be exemplary members of the community and provide positive support to the SFMD and its community in every way possible.
•It should maintain and secure the district pride in providing the best customer service possible.

What are your hopes for the fire and medical district?: I hope the SFMD will continue providing the best service possible to this community. That it will be on the leading edge of fire suppression technology, provision of emergency medical treatment, and reducing the loss of life and property through community education and training. I hope to become a part of this exciting growth, while accepting the Board challenges of delivering these quality services within a fiscally conservative and sustainable budget.

How would you rate the state of the fire and medical district? What changes would you recommend?: We have an excellent and progressive community fire district with dedicated and knowledgeable leadership and personnel. I feel greater efficiencies in the budget can be seen in innovative ways and I believe the Fire Board can help foster these efficiencies, so that we could get more or equal for the same amount of tax dollars, while still maintaining the high quality of services provided, personnel training, and employee recognition. I believe the fire board needs to get more resourceful and interactive with the administration, not only be fed ideas but be themselves part of the creative process, that new blood is needed on the fire board to bring and recognize a rejuvenation of ideas and willingness to make the hard decisions to accomplish what is best for the tax payer. Some recommended ideas to look into for changes:
•Increase fire education, at the school, senior citizen, and, especially at the business levels. We could provide the importance of fire safety and code education to our local businesses which have often not been deliberately targeted yet present a high fire loss risk.
•Teaming with insurance companies to provide residents and businesses with fire and medical hazard reduction.
•Pursuing an increase in fire suppression training, looking into the newly available equipment and methodology changes, thus increasing public and fire fighter safety and survivability.
•By increasing medical training, we could bringing SFMD to the cutting edge of medical field interventions, possibly partnering with medical colleges and hospitals for pilot programs, improving the already existing services to the citizens of the district.
•I could additionally offer the use of my experience in grant writing and cost recovery to help find opportunities to make these progressive options happen with no additional cost to the taxpayer.

Name one un-funded or under-funded program or project you would promote as a member of the fire and medical district board and why: Public Education in the medical field and fire prevention, I am passionate about them. As a paramedic I have witnessed the difference public training programs in CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) training has made in the number of lives saved. As a firefighter, I have personally seen how a reduction in public safety education had caused a significant increase in fires, fire loss, and fire fatalities. I have experienced how something, which might seem as simple as smoke detector safety, can save lives and warn occupants of an imminent fire danger.

The fire and medical district has a budget of more than $21 million, much from property taxes, yet few residents attend board meetings. What can the governing board and district do to get more people interested in the district?: Meetings are the third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. This time frame can be a challenge for residents to attend. Video recording of all board meetings and providing access via the Internet for residents to schedule watching at their convenience, would allow the residents to see and hear what’s going on in their district meetings. To draw a larger audience, this could be coordinated with a public service fire/medical safety announcement, perhaps geared to reduce concurring monthly seasonal hazards. It could be an opportunity to inform and educate our residents. I would also like the meeting agendas and topics more accessible and easy to find. Many I spoke with did not know how to find this information. Additional means of communicating when, where, and how to find meetings and meeting information might help get residents to become active. By interacting more with schools, businesses, and senior facilities within our district, we could advertise our meetings and agendas and draw more interest and attention to our itinerary, drawing more interaction from our constituents.

If elected, what will you accomplish in your first 100 days in office?: I will:
•bring initiatives forward for alternative revenue sources to reduce the tax burden on the community while increasing revenue for our district.
•Seek opportunities for fire district boundary growth, increasing district revenue and decreasing the tax burden on the current residents
•Provide groundwork for long term budget stability and making your tax dollars go further. Present avenues for alternative revenue sources that can alleviate strain on the tax payer. Format programs to get SFMD more involved in the community from a fire board, administrative, and station personnel standpoint
•The budget is a huge concern of mine. The district is at the state limited cap and the voters recently approved an override taking the tax rate from $3.25 to $3.50. Proposition 117 changed the method the county assessors evaluate property from full cash value to limited property value. This is a two-fold issue. The residents of the district have a tax rate higher than ever and the fire district does not have the capability to collect additional taxes in the future. They are capped. To remedy this, as previously outlined, I will pursue to bring initiatives forward for alternative revenue sources to reduce the tax burden on the community while increasing revenue for our District.
•I will also pursue opportunities for fire district boundary growth, which could benefit our district by increasing revenue and decreasing the tax burden on the current residents

What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration?: I see collaboration opportunities with neighboring departments and hospitals:
•SFMD is part of the Regional Automatic Aid system, a model not seen anywhere else in the country. When an emergency call comes in, regardless of the departmental jurisdiction, the closest regional resources respond. We are thus able to reduce taxes and increase service when districts and municipalities share resources. We need to further develop this partnership with our neighbors.
•The SFMD currently has a stroke protocol with Mountain Vista to decrease times to CT scanning and treatment, lessening and even preventing brain damage. I will pursue the district partnering with Banner and other agencies to increase the survivability and prevention of those in Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.
•I see fire and medical educational and prevention opportunities by teaming with regional departments and hospitals to expand the sharing of resources and information, thus saving taxpayers dollars, while providing residents with better services.

Facebook: Kathleen Chamberlain (Superstition Fire Board Candidate)

E-mail: kathleen.chamberlain123@gmail.com

The Apache Junction Independent is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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