Scott LeVielle Resigns As North Highline Fire Chief 1

Scott LeVielle

by Ralph Nichols

North Highline Fire Chief Scott LeVielle announced on Monday (Dec. 21) that he will step aside, clearing the way for adoption of a reduced but balanced 2010 budget for Fire District 11.

The $4,817,185 operating budget for next year then was adopted unanimously by fire district commissioners.

LeVielle’s resignation will take effect on Feb. 28. His current annual salary is $186,362.

Burien/Normandy Park (District 2) Fire Chief Mike Marrs will become chief for both departments. Other fire chief services and training and inspection services also will be consolidated under Fire District 2.

“With that … we are in the black,” Fire Commission Chairman Ron Malispino said before approval of the budget.

“A lot of effort went into this [agreement with the fire chiefs’ and firefighters’ locals of the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), and with Fire District 2]. A lot of effort. We need to do it and we need to do it right away. We can’t just operate anymore.”

The departure of LeVielle, who became chief at the end of 2006, and the department’s training secretary – coupled with consolidated services with Fire District 2 – will save North Highline $581,720 in salary savings next year.

Both IAFF locals made salary and benefit concessions as part of the budget-balancing process, including reducing overtime and capping sick pay payoffs. Other cuts include the reduction of a variety of department expense items from $216,600 down to $159,220.

“It was a good collective bargaining process,” LeVielle told The B-Town Blog. “When you reach consensus, that is the best process. It does work.

“It makes sense for the two departments to work together,” he continued. “It made sense to have one chief and to cut costs, including support services, over the next two years. I needed to step down to keep the department’s budget above water.”

LeVielle’s move will save two or three North Highline firefighter positions – no firefighters currently employed by the department will be laid off.

While the consolidation agreement between the Burien/Normandy Park and North Highline departments is not a merger, “there is a lot of operational consolidation, functional consolidation, of existing operations at a higher level,” Marrs said.

“This is an important first step toward making everything work and enhance existing services. This is a big commitment by District 11 to continue its level of service.”

Marrs added that it’s “good for District 2 citizens given the large area of north Burien and the [North Highline] annexation area,” but a lot of work to implement the consolidation remains to be done.

The consolidation of administrative services will take place by the end of February. Training, inspection and other operational services are expected to be fully concluded by the end of 2011, LaVielle said.

LeVielle replaced former North Highline Fire Chief Russ Pritchard when he retired at the end of 2006. In a move that generated considerable controversy at the time, District 11 commissioners increased Pritchard’s salary from $125,664 to $198,000 for the final months of 2006 as a retirement package for him.

Under a revised retirement-compensation policy, LeVielle will receive one year’s salary plus standard buyouts for accrued vacation and sick leave.

Fire District 11 commissioners would have faced the need to reduce services without the collective-bargaining agreement and the consolidation agreement with Fire District 2.

Reduced assessed property values in North Highline, the impact of annexation of part of the North Highline area by Burien in 2010, and administrative costs all contributed to the department’s budget problems.

The B-Town Blog requested copies of the North Highline department’s detailed 2010 budget and the two separation agreements. The budget was made available late Monday afternoon and the separation agreements will be available after Dec. 31 if, under state law, the respective individuals do not file a legal objection.