From the President
Michael S. Williams
The Wildland Residents Association, Inc., San Marcos Pass Volunteer Fire Department has again enjoyed a quiet but productive year. The Board continues to work aggressively on membership and funding development as well as cost control and educational program support.
This year saw the retirement of Dean and Karen May. The Mays have been active members of the WRA since incorporation in 1982. Dean served as Treasurer and CFO at the time of his retirement. He was a past fire chief of the San Marcos Pass Volunteer Fire Department. Karen May has been the long time WRA corporate secretary. She has seen the Association through three presidents and many significant changes. Their contributions to the Association are too many to list. In appreciation for over 30 years of service, the Mays were appointed Life Members on August 11th, 2014.
Ina Brittain joins the WRA Board as corporate secretary. Ina has extensive experience working with non-profit organizations. Her experience and local knowledge will be an asset to the WRA and the San Marcos Pass communities.
Judy Jennings returns to the WRA as Treasurer and CFO having served previously before Dean took over. She has extensive financial experience working with non-profits and accounting having worked at several well-known local organizations for many years.
The Association continues to work on controlling costs. Worker’s compensation insurance costs have been maintained more or less at the same levels as last year. However, the WRA did change general liability insurance coverage to VFIS. This change significantly improved all coverages as well as providing an accident and sickness policy for WRA officers and firefighters. This policy also covers residents who may be called into service during a local emergency.
The radio show “Community Alert” is entering the sixth year on the air. A grant has been received from the California Firesafe Council for another two years of broadcasting support.
The San Marcos Pass Volunteer Fire Department continues the Support Program, under the supervision of Craig Jennings, for those who want to assist in local emergencies but will not engage in specific firefighting operations.
On August 11th the WRA Board received additional training about the responsibilities of tax-exempt board service from our corporate attorney Kristine L. Mollenkopf. The training included a review of non-profit laws, accountability, board responsibilities, the necessity for good documentation and record retention and governance. It is essential that those involved in the management of the WRA fully understand the complexities of such responsibilities.
As part of the WRA membership and marketing plan, a reflective sign was designed to show the street address for WRA members. The signs are highly visible day and night because of the reflective paint. The sign is provided to each WRA member at no charge.
The WRA radio site in Painted Cave is in need of some upgrades including replacing the emergency power batteries. Former Santa Barbara City radio technician Jim Ward and local commercial electrician Phil Brittain have itemized the necessary equipment for the upgrades. The plan includes adding one or two additional receivers on Brush Peak and in Paradise Canyon to improve VHF two-way radio coverage. Currently, there are several “dead spots” that can be eliminated by adding these additional receivers.
The Office of Management and Budget – “OMB Super Circular” becomes effective on December 26th 2014. The change impacts many organizations that receive federal funding, including the WRA. The change streamlines eight federal regulations into one policy. The policy includes a conflict of interest policy and mandatory disclosure of all violations in writing involving fraud, bribery or gratuity violations that may potentially affect a federal award.
The change includes the ability to negotiate indirect costs associated with grant management and administrative cost. It also provides for an optional ten percent automatic indirect cost option. This provides for more direct costs for program administration that can be reported as direct costs rather than being absorbed into indirect costs rates. This will have a positive impact on any further federal grants the WRA may apply for.
The WRA Board will be reviewing our current policy and procedures to adapt them to the new federal requirements.
In early 2014, the California State Fire Fighters’ Association Volunteer Committee in conjunction with the National Volunteer Fire Council was successful in obtaining a positive IRS ruling that volunteer firefighters shall remain “volunteers” as it relates to mandated health care. This ruling was further supported by the U.S. Department of Labor. This was an issue that could have had a serious impact on the WRA.
At the state level, there remains a critical review of alleged “shadow governments” that include special districts and fire companies. The WRA Board intends to remain active in those committees and associations supporting the volunteer fire service to keep current on these significant potential changes.
Introduced by Ted Adams for the San Marcos Pass communities, the list service Nextdoor has grown to 115 subscribers. This Internet-based network has become a significant method for our community to communicate on a variety of issues from public safety, community projects, contractor needs and sales. Joining Nextdoor is easy through the WRA website: wildlandresidents.org.
The WRA continues to remain an active part of the San Marcos Pass community providing public information, education, mitigation projects and initial attack fire services. The WRA is an example of what a community can do to help itself.
Michael S. Williams