Camas-Washougal Fire Department looking for financing solutions
CAMAS – Consultants hired by the city of Camas in May to review the 9-year-old merger of the Camas and Washougal fire departments say they hope to present an analysis of the service as well as “sustainable and fair” alternatives to officials by the government. the end of the year.
Merina + CO, based in Tualatin, Ore., Will meet with stakeholders, conduct a streamlined analysis of the decade-long partnership that formed the Camas-Washougal Fire Department in December 2013, and develop recommendations for the future. fire and emergency medical services in the Camas-Washougal Sector.
Camas City Council unanimously approved the $ 94,770 contract with Merina + CO on May 17.
Municipal leaders in Camas and Washougal said they hope the consultants find a solution that allows the fire department to meet the growth and increased needs of the community without putting most of the financial strain on a single one. jurisdiction.
“The cost-sharing formula that forms the basis of the CWFD merger has created friction in the partnership and has at times threatened its continuation,” CWFD Fire Chief Nick Swinhart told city councilors in May. . “Both cities have expressed frustration over their inability to fund the necessary growth of the fire department. “
“We think the deal has been very good for both cities,” added the fire chief, “but there have been a few hurdles down the road, especially with regard to the cost-sharing formula that is going to be. There are concerns on both sides, in both cities.
Under the 10-year deal that merged the two fire departments in 2013, Camas agreed to be the primary funding body, paying around 60% of the department’s costs, while Washougal would pay 40% of the costs. .
Officials from both cities began questioning the merger in 2018, after Camas city councilors agreed to add four new firefighter stations to the city’s 2019-2020 budget. Although most Washougal councilors agreed the fire department was understaffed and the positions were needed, Washougal officials said their city simply couldn’t afford to pay 40 percent of new hires. .
The problem arose again in 2020, after Camas executives again said they were considering adding four more firefighters to the list in the 2021-22 budget.
Washougal City Manager David Scott told the Post-Record in 2020 that Washougal city councilors “generally recognized the need for more staff” at the CWFD but are struggling to find revenue to cover the share. of Washougal for new hires.
“Our problem right now is an inability to pay for staffing levels beyond the staffing profile identified in the (interlocal agreement), not a reluctance,” Scott said in 2020, adding that Washougal should probably turn to his constituents to find “sustainable, long-term income” in order to pay more firefighters.
On Tuesday, Moody told Camas board members that his team would assess the department’s current situation as well as proposed alternatives using criteria to make the department more equitable and sustainable.
“We think they need to be balanced,” Moody said. “One does not win out over the other. If it’s sustainable, but not seen as fair, well, it’s still not fair. If it’s fair, but only lasts a year or two, that doesn’t solve our problem either.