By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
An audit issued for the Onalaska area fire department found the department violated parts of the state law requiring competitively bidding projects and purchases.
An elected three-member board governs Lewis County Fire District 1 and it has one part-time employee. The Washington State Auditor’s Office noted the district had several staffing changes during the audit period – the four years ending on Dec. 31, 2011 – and couldn’t locate documentation to support some of the transactions.
Specifically, they obtained quotes for fire gear and a vehicle totaling $80,867 but should have formally bid the purchases, according to report issued on Monday. The district did not retain records to support why it didn’t choose the lowest bidder on one of the purchases, the report states.
Also, it used another fire district’s bid to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus, but didn’t have a formal agreement with that district allowing the use of the bid, according to the report.
Also, while the district used Lewis County’s so-called small works roster for construction of a new fire station, it hadn’t formally adopted the use of the roster as required, the report states.
The auditor notes the effects of the conditions are the district limited competition for the new fire station and its purchases, and cannot demonstrate it adequately safeguarded resources by getting the best price and / or bidder.
The auditor recommended the fire district ensure its staff get adequate training and understand the importance of compliance with bid laws
The fire district’s response to the auditor was its board will formally adopt the use of the small works roster process; it will review the law and follow required procedures in the future; and it did get multiple quotes to find the best price while staying with like equipment, the report notes.
District one changed fire chiefs and its secretary, as well as had six different commissioners serving during the audit period.
There were no shortcomings identified in other areas examined, such as payroll, general revenue, financial condition and open public meetings act. Nor have any findings been made in the previous three audits.
The fire district, with approximately 30 volunteers, operated on an annual budget of $400,000 which comes from property taxes and an EMS levy, according to audit.