Baumgarth challenges Ryan for Mehlville fire board seat

Pictured+above%3A+Ed+Ryan+%28left%29+and+Fred+Baumgarth+%28right%29

Pictured above: Ed Ryan (left) and Fred Baumgarth (right)

By Erin Achenbach 
Staff Reporter 
eachenbach@callnewspapers.com 

Former firefighter Fred Baumgarth is challenging incumbent Ed Ryan for a seat on the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors in the election Tuesday, April 2.

Baumgarth, 65, 9744 Green Park Road, is a retiree and a newcomer to public office. He is a lifetime member of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“An article in the Concord Call” about the lack of people running in this year’s election is the reason Baumgarth decided to seek office.

Ryan, 75, 10682 Hackamore Lane, Concord, is a retired engineering project manager and licensed professional engineer. He is married to MaryAnn.

Asked why he is seeking office, Ryan said, “Continue to expand the emergency services of MFPD while representing the interests of the taxpayer.”

What issue do you consider the most important issue in this race and why?

Baumgarth said, “Restore and upgrade services. Increase training.”

Ryan said, “Maintaining a low tax rate while extending training programs….”

Other issues you perceive in your race?

Baumgarth said, “Reduce turnover, rebuild Mehlville as a destination district, not just a stopover to another fire district.”

Ryan said, “Continue to renovate firehouses 6 and 7. And complete construction of the new training facility.”

Are you satisfied with the leadership of Chief Brian Hendricks?

Baumgarth said, “Yes, we worked as privates together.”

Ryan said, “Yes. Chief Hendricks has built a strong team of professionals. He has worked closely with the Board of Directors to expand the capabilities of the fire district while creating a district with a superior team of firefighters and paramedics.”

Do you support the district’s ALS pumper program and the 2005 decision that all new hires will be firefighter/paramedics?

Baumgarth said, “Yes, better health and safety for taxpayers.”

Ryan said, “Yes, MFPD was one of the first districts to put a paramedic on the fire truck.”

Are the district’s reserves adequate?

Baumgarth said, “No.”

Ryan said, “Yes.”

How do you envision the relationship between the board and the union?

Baumgarth said, “Needs improvement in general.”

Ryan said, “The level of cooperation has grown over the past few years and I feel that will continue.”

Would you accept campaign contributions from Local 2665 or a related group?

Baumgarth said, “No.”

Ryan said, “No. I expect my contributions will come from homeowners/taxpayers in the fire district.”

Do you support the reforms since 2005?

Baumgarth said, “Most were necessary, some were not.”

Ryan said, “The 2005 reforms have been proven to work. Residents now get the best services for the lowest tax rate in St. Louis County… I have to repeat that… The absolute best services at the lowest tax rate. This is a phenomenal achievement.”

Should county fire districts consolidate?

Baumgarth said, “No.”

Ryan said, “No… This would cause a financial disaster for the MFPD homeowner… The tax rate would at least double per the calculations of Better Together.”

How did you vote on the fire district’s Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 in the April 2009 election?

Baumgarth said, “Out of town unexpectedly. Unable to vote.”

Ryan said, “I voted in favor of Prop 1 and 2.”

Would you end ambulance billing?

Baumgarth said, “No, non-residents using the service should pay through insurance.”

Ryan said, “No.”

Should facility and equipment purchases be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis or should the district borrow money?

Baumgarth said, “Sometimes bond issues are necessary.”

Ryan said, “Pay-as-you-go has been successful. In the past 12 years there have been no bond issues or tax increases to pay for new buildings or equipment.”

Does the board follow the Sunshine Law? What would you change?

Baumgarth said, “Open door policy with taxpayers at each and every meeting. Make meetings easier to attend.”

Ryan said, “Yes.”

Do you agree with the board decision to change the district’s pension plan from defined benefit to defined contribution?

Baumgarth said, “Why change a plan that’s 100-percent funded?”

Ryan said, “Yes. This type of plan gives the employees the opportunity to invest for retirement as they choose to. The employee is in control of how the assets are invested.”

Do you believe the district has a problem with employee turnover?

Baumgarth said, “Yes, while still working as a firefighter I saw many people leave. High overtime while new hires go through fire academy.”

Ryan said, “No. This item has been brought up in several of the past elections. MFPD’s turnover rate is no higher than the national average.”

Do you believe the district is moving in the right direction? What should change?

Baumgarth said, “Generally yes. Reduce employee turnover.”

Ryan said, “Yes. MFPD is a superior fire district. Its high status in St. Louis County has been built by an independent board of directors, the fire chief and his officers and all the dedicated, highly-trained men and women who serve the community with pride.”

Would you support the board voluntarily rolling back the district’s tax rate?

Baumgarth said, “As long as services remain intact.”

Ryan said, “MFPD is operated on a very tight budget. In 2009 the tax rate was rolled back 40 cents per $100. This has never been done in the state of Missouri. Now each year there is a very deliberate review of the proposed budget with the goal of not raising the tax rate. The district continues to operate in that fashion.”

Do you support the district’s new critical care paramedic program?

Baumgarth said, “Yes.”

Ryan said, “Yes. The new level of training and professionalism of the critical care paramedic program is unique to MFPD in St. Louis County. It is part of an expansion of superior emergency care that further expands MFPD’s superior level of emergency services provided to the community. At present time there are no other fire districts in St. Louis County that offer this level of emergency services.”

Are you willing to debate your opponent?

Baumgarth said, “No.”

Ryan said, “Yes.”

How many meetings have you attended?

Baumgarth said, “Several.”

Ryan said, “I would say that I have attended 99.9 percent of the meetings. It’s easier to say I missed only six meetings during that 12-year period, due to vacation or illness.”

Have you been endorsed by any groups?

Baumgarth said, “No.”

Ryan said, “… (No) unions or PACs.”

Do you think the district needs to place a tax-rate increase before voters? Why or why not?

Baumgarth said, “If needed to maintain services and employee retention.”

Ryan said, “No. The fire district has adequate funds to operate on.”

Do you support the district’s purchase of property as the site of a future training center?

Baumgarth said, “Need a full time training officer to maintain standards.”

Ryan said, “Yes. MFD is constantly working to keep our firefighters at the highest level of firefighting proficiency. The new training center will expand that capability.”

Are you satisfied with the fire district’s level of service and response times? Please elaborate.

Baumgarth said, “Living in Green Park with part-time ambulance. No ambulance at Becker Road station.”

Ryan said, “Yes. All ambulances and fire trucks have GPS. The dispatching agency can identify the vehicle closest to the emergency. Although the number of dispatches is increasing at a rate of around 5 percent per year, the response time has remained stable.”

Is the Mehlville Fire Protection District better off today than in 2004? Why or why not?

Baumgarth said, “Have loss of experience. New people training new people.”

Ryan said, “Absolutely better. In 2004 the district was run for the benefit of the few. Starting in 2005 the district was run for the betterment of the community. Multiple firehouses, fire trucks and ambulances have been purchased with no bond issues or tax rate hikes. This is all after a 0.40/100.00 roll back in the tax rate.”

Are you satisfied with the overall financial condition of the Mehlville Fire Protection District? Please elaborate.

Baumgarth said, “Reserves are depleted since 2009.”

Ryan said, “Yes. The capital fund reserves are $3.4 million and the general fund reserves are $9.5 million. This is a sufficient amount of reserves.”

Are you satisfied with the level of training the district provides employees?

Baumgarth said, “No, most districts Mehlville’s size have a full time training officer.”

Ryan said, “Yes.”

Are you satisfied with the equipment and apparatus provided for district employees?

Baumgarth said, “For the most part.”

Ryan said, “The fire trucks and ambulances are on a replacement schedule. There are no units that have been delayed due to lack of budget for replacement or upgrade.”

Are you satisfied with the condition of the district’s facilities? Are improvements needed at any of the firehouses?

Baumgarth said, “Rehab Becker Road station to accommodate staffing an additional ambulance.”

Ryan said, “Yes. In the past 12 years there have been four new modern fire stations completed. At the present time there is one fire station that received an upgrade to the sleeping quarters and there is one fire station left to get upgrades.”

Do you support a city-county merger?

Baumgarth said, “No.”

Ryan said, “No. A city-county merger would be followed by the merging of the fire districts. Although presently not part of the merger, this plan was put together and was temporarily removed from the present plan due to the astronomical cost of merging the fire districts.”

Do you support the current relationship between the fire board and the union?

Baumgarth said, “Needs improvement.”

Ryan said, “Yes, I feel there has been substantial improvement in the board’s relationship to the union.”

Would you support consolidating the fire district?

Baumgarth said, “Not at the expense of reduction of any fire stations or loss of manpower.”

Ryan said, “No.”