Hillsboro is getting bigger by the day, and with more and more people moving to western Washington County, the city is having to step up its number of emergency responders, with plans to hire six new firefighters and five new police officers this year.
Last month, the city approved a plan to hire a slew of new fire and police department personnel. The positions are needed now, city officials said, but they will also play an important role in the years to come as the city grapples with massive growth.
Hillsboro Police spokesman Lt. Henry Reimann said the department will have four new patrol officers and will add a new member to its investigation team.
"We needed bodies on that because of growth (in Hillsboro)," Reimann said.
The city of Hillsboro is expected to grow substantially over the next decade. Hillsboro is expected to pass 100,000 residents for the first time in December, thanks to recent developments in the AmberGlen and Orenco Station developments, Preston said. Work is also continuing in South Hillsboro, the largest housing development in state history, which will add about 20,000 new residents, according to the city.
And while funding for police and fire services will grow with the city, the coverage area will eventually become too large for the city's current police and fire buildings.
Preston said the city's fire department hasn't hatched plans for a new station to serve South Hillsboro, but mentioned a Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue station on Southwest 209th Avenue in Aloha — directly across the street from the South Hillsboro development.
The Hillsboro Police Department is working toward the eventual construction of a combined police headquarters building, Reimann said, moving away from the current concept of east and west precincts. Police administrations have favored different concepts over the years.
"There are a lot of ways to skin the proverbial kitty," Reimann said.
Reimann said a single police building would likely be more centrally located than the current buildings, which are located near downtown and along Northwest Cornell Road near Tanasbourne.
The city is dedicating funding to the police department headquarters, which is still in the distant future: officials recently renewed the lease for its Tanasbourne precinct through 2022.
Funding for the new positions didn't come from the local option levy passed by voters in May, according to Hillsboro Public Affairs Manager Patrick Preston. That levy has paid for the city's police and fire departments for years. Rather, Preston said, the city increases funding to the department organically as home values and population increases.
Hillsboro Fire will add six new firefighters, each with paramedic training. Department spokesman Bruce Montgomery said the goal is to increase staffing to have a full crew — two firefighters, an engineer and a lieutenant — on each shift.
Some shifts have a staff of three, depending on the fire station, and not every crew on every shift has a crew member trained to the paramedic level. Medical calls make up a majority of calls to the fire department, and having a firefighter with paramedic training on every call improves the way HFD can respond to calls.
The department added a fourth battalion chief earlier this year, and the city included funding for the position in the approved budget.
Montgomery said the new positions will help the department cover when staff members are sick, on vacation or are required to have days off to avoid expensive overtime.
The new battalion chief, when not filling in, is working on updating the department's protocols, Montgomery said.
The department has also hired a handful of firefighters to fill in for retirements or promotions.
New Hillsboro Police officers might not be on the streets until next summer, Reimann said, due to the length of the interview and training process.