When voters take to the polls Tuesday, they are going to see two familiar names running for a seat on the Destin Fire Control District’s Board of Fire Commissioners — Rick Moore and Ken Scoper.
Moore is a lifelong Destin resident and local business owner at R&L Outfitters. Scoper is an Alabama native who owns and operates Little Hands, Little Feet Therapy Services, LLC.
Scoper is currently the incumbent, after the board appointed him last year, and Moore had previously served a four-year term from 2006-2010 before current Commissioner Mike Buckingham defeated him in his re-election bid two years ago.
With the election only days away, The Log sat down with each man to discuss their thoughts on the current state of the fire district.
As both current and former fire commissioners, both Moore and Scoper’s main duties are ensuring the financial stability of the district, which has posed some challenges over the past few years as property values in Destin have steadily declined.
While some tough decisions have been made in regard to the current year’s budget, Moore says some of the other decisions made were mere “Band-Aids.”
“They had to borrow from their reserves to balance the budget this year,” he said. “We need to look at ways to cut costs, which could be as easy as eliminated positions that were created in good times.”
Moore said one such position is the “engineer,” who is tasked with driving the fire truck for his shift and ensuring that the vehicle is property “taken care of.”
Since the current budget went into effect in October, Scoper told The Log that the commissioners went through every line item with a “fine tooth comb” looking for areas where they could reduce costs.
“At this point we are really running at the bare bones,” he said. “Hopefully moving forward, the revenue base will start to even out so we don’t have to make any more cuts.”
While cutting staff is an option that makes sense to Moore, if absolutely necessary, Scoper wasn’t a fan of the idea, saying it would be “detrimental” to the district’s operations.
Since leaving his post in 2010, Moore said there were some changes that were made at the district that he would like to see changed for the safety of the community. The first being the current work shifts, which are 48 hours on duty and 96 hours off. In the past, they worked 24 hours on and 48 hours off.
“Would you want someone who was on their 44th or 45th hour of work to come and rescue you?” he asked. “It just doesn’t seem safe to me.”
Moore said he would also like to change the current way the district negotiates contracts with the firefighters union, which is done by Fire Chief Kevin Sasser. While he didn’t accuse the chief of any wrongdoing, Moore said it wasn’t a good practice because at the end of the day the chief would benefit from the negotiations though pay increases or retirement benefits.
For Scoper, there wasn’t much to change, but he noted that he and his fellow commissioners would continue to look for any and every way to save money as the year progressed.
“It’s something we look at daily and monthly,” he said.
With only two men in the race, The Log asked both candidates to share why they were the better choice for fire commission.
“I was born and raised in this community and I want it to have the best equipment, the best firefighters and the best services possible,” Moore said.
For Scoper, “I just feel as though I am qualified, and while his qualifications are commendable, it’s not really up to me or my opinion. It’s up to the residents of Destin.”
Early Voting for the Nov. 6, General Election ends today (Saturday) Locations include the Niceville City Hall located at 208 N. Partin Drive and Shalimar Annex located at 1250 N. Eglin Pkwy. Destin resident will be able to place their vote at the following polling locations on Election Day: Precinct 20: West Destin, Destin Community Center, 101 Stahlman Ave.; Precinct 35: North Destin, Destin United Methodist Church, 200 Beach Dr.; Precinct 44: Central Destin, Destin United Methodist Church, 200 Beach Dr.; Precinct 49: East Destin, Destin City Hall Annex, 4100 Indian Bayou Trl.; Precinct 50: South Destin Destin City Hall Annex, 4100 Indian Bayou Trail. For a guide to the local city council race and issues, see thedestinlog.com