Pine-Strawberry Brush Program Comes To An End

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The Pine-Strawberry Fire District last week announced it would end a brush pickup program after all — at least for now.

The fire department will do its last brush haul Aug. 31.

The news contradicts what officials told residents at a July 18 meeting and has spurred outrage.

The district initially reported a $273,000 grant would keep the program running, but due to some last-minute changes, it will likely stop for two months, said P-S Fire Chief David Staub Tuesday.

With the program ending, three people have lost their jobs — two men who worked in the field and a program manager.

This has caused uproar, especially since Chief Staub recently received a pay raise.

Staub said the raise was scheduled into his contract and came at his one-year anniversary.

However, no one else in the district received a raise this year, except one office employee.

Staub said he gave the governing board the option of nixing his raise in favor of an additional week of vacation time. The board went with the raise, however, because it will cost the district less. Staub now makes $87,000 a year — 2 percent more than he made when he started with the district a year ago.

This is the last scheduled raise in Staub’s contract.

On the fuels program, the federal grant that has funded it for several years has run out. The district does not have the $10,000 it takes to the run the program a month, Staub said.

On Aug. 24, the fire board held a special public meeting and decided to stop the brush pickup.

“Though this decision was a tough one, it came down to not wanting and being able to spend budgeted, property tax money on what is set as a grant-funded project.”

However, the community-based committee Fuels Reduction Inc. has a grant that may pay for the continuation of the program and the fire district may still get a grant.

“When either of these grants are actually awarded, and an agreement is reached as to which group will continue to carry the project, it will be reinstated and back running,” he said. “We are sorry to say that funds permitting, we still do not anticipate the routes starting up again until sometime after Sept. 30.”

Staub will deliver an update on the program to the fire board on Sept. 21.

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