All three Star Fire District commissioners resigned Friday, leaving the broke fire district without enough directors to conduct business.
Fire Commissioners Gunnar Howarth, John Miller and Jeff Sedivec said they accept responsibility for not addressing the Districts current and complex issues, in a joint statement released Friday.
Gov. Butch Otter now will have to appoint new officials who will have the task of salvaging a district that overspent its $1.3 million annual budget by more than $1 million in the past three years. Otter is a Star resident.
About a year ago, the Star fire district approached the Eagle fire district looking for help. It said it was in debt, grappling with a $300,000 annual shortfall and facing layoffs.
The two districts agreed to a temporary joint operating agreement with the goal of both districts merging and forming one fire district covering parts of Ada, Canyon, Boise and Gem counties.
In May 2012, the two districts signed the agreement to operate jointly for up to five years to iron out kinks before formally and permanently consolidating. Under that agreement, Stars 14 firefighters became Eagle Fire employees.
But that plan changed.
About a month ago, Star fire district asked Star Mayor Nate Mitchell if the city would consider starting its own fire department. The fire district could then contract with the city to provide fire district's service. Boise, Meridian and Nampa have city fire departments that provide contracted services to fire districts.
When Eagle fire commissioners learned that the Star fire commissioners were considering having the city take over the fire district's duties, they asked Star to re-commit to the district consolidation plan. That did not happen, so on Monday, the Eagle and Star Fire Commissioners mutually agreed to terminate the joint powers agreement within 180 days.
The Star Fire Commissioners decided it was in their best interest to pursue an agreement with the city of Star, said Eagle Fire Chief Mike Winkle.
Mitchell, the Star mayor, put together a conceptual proposal for the city starting its own fire department and presented it the city council Tuesday. The council unanimously agreed to further pursue the concept to determine if it is viable.
By Friday all three commissioners had resigned, effective immediately.
The Star Fire District suffers from budgeting errors, overspending, a lack of oversight, revenue shortfalls, and a failure to comply with adopted policy, according to the Star Fire District's statement.
The Idaho Statesman has confirmed Star Fire District did not undergo independent annual audits as prescribed by state law. Other unconfirmed violations include not following open meeting and budget procedures and failing to document district proceedings.
"I am proud of the three commissioners for recognizing the magnitude of the decisions that need to be made by the district, and for their willingness to do the right thing," Mitchell said Friday.
While public officials sort this out, residents in the Star Fire District can be assured their fire protection needs will be met, said Eagle Fire Chief Mike Winkle on Friday.
There will be no interruption of service," he said.