Boring, Clackamas County will need voter approval

A feasibility study completed earlier this year recommends legally merging the Boring and Clackamas fire districts. But it will be up to voters in both districts, and probably won’t happen anytime soon, said Boring Fire Chief Brian Stewart, because it must first go through an extensive public review.

The months-long study, conducted by Emergency Services Consulting International, recommends a legal integration between the two county fire departments, but other options are on the table, Stewart said. The study also offers a “contract for service” option if the districts decide on a step-by-step integration.

With voter approval, legal integration would result in only one fire district, by several different means, which could affect tax rates, Stewart said. Boring Fire property owners pay $2.38 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while Clackamas Fire property owners pay $2.40 per $1,000.

Depending on the method for integration, Boring property owners could see an increase of about $7 per year for a $300,000 property, while Clackamas rates would remain the same or be reduced by about 70 cents for property of the same value. The change would bring Boring’s rate to close to the same as that of Clackamas, about $2.40 per $1,000, Stewart said.

If any of the scenarios to join the two fire districts is adopted, it won’t be the first time they have combined forces, Stewart said. The agencies combined many services and standardized practices in support of their joint volunteer programs and have identified other areas to be more efficient and improve effectiveness in the future.

“We did a joint firefighter recruitment in late 2011, and based on the success of that we have looked at that, we looked to combine civil service systems,” he said. “We said, hey, this recruitment process worked but we could make it more efficient if we had one civil service system.”

That system was implemented in February and streamlines recruitment and promotional processes, reduces duplication of efforts and shares costs, Stewart said.

The alternate suggestion of the consulting group, to contract for services, would not change the districts’ boundaries or tax rates, Stewart said. To better understand how that would work, Boring Fire requested a proposal from Clackamas Fire, which should be received soon.

An interagency committee will look at that proposal and then both boards will get briefed on its contents and possible benefits. It will take at least a month to get to that stage, Stewart said.

“To do any form of legal integration would have to go to the voters and I wouldn’t even think it would be in November,” he said. “If the boards wanted to go any of those routes, a tremendous amount of public outreach would have to occur. It has to go through the process.”

Whatever the outcome, Stewart said Boring Fire will keep public interests foremost.

“We are focusing on providing great service to our communities today and for years to come,” he said. “Boring Fire is currently evaluating opportunities to determine how we can do that efficiently.”

Clackamas Fire Chief Fred Charlton said his district’s board has reviewed the study and the district’s interagency committee is working on a proposal for contracting services with Boring Fire.

“Finding great efficiency and working toward integrating our service delivery models ... will provide opportunities to enhance the services we collectively provide.”

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