Estacada fire board mulls study for district's future
Several members of the Estacada Fire Board said they would be interested in pursuing a feasibility study that charts out options for the district's future.
Fire board members met with Michael V. Hansen Consulting on Friday, Sept. 7, to discuss the district as its intergovernmental agreement with Clackamas Fire may soon come to an end. Earlier this year, the Estacada Fire Board opted to conduct a study that explored the services they share with Clackamas Fire and ways in which they could potentially be added or reduced, but Clackamas Fire's Board of Directors had requested a broad study that would also examine the possibility of merging the two districts. The study would have been conducted jointly between the two districts.
However, because Estacada opted out of the full study, Clackamas Fire gave notice that it intends to withdraw next year from the existing intergovernmental agreement.
Through the agreement, the Estacada Rural Fire District receives training opportunities, command and control services, additional aid for fires and other incidents, and a battalion chief on nights and weekends. If the IGA comes to an end, Estacada Fire would still receive a certain amount of fire response services from Clackamas Fire through the mutual aid program.
During the work session, Hansen told the Estacada board he recommends an extended feasibility study that would consider "Estacada standing alone or some kind of merger." He also recommended that an outside agency complete the study.
"It was very clear in the IGA that the feasibility study was to be done and completed by December 31. What wasn't clear was what was going to be in that feasibility study," Hansen said.
No official action could be taken during the work session, but Estacada Fire Board member Chris Randall advocated for a feasibility study conducted by a neutral third party that looked solely at the Estacada Rural Fire District and a five year plan for the district. He later told The Estacada News that the study "could consider the possibility of a merger."
Randall described the study as "a good discussion topic" for the board's meeting on Thursday, Sept. 20. He also mentioned meeting with Clackamas Fire "and in good faith show(ing) them that we're trying to move forward with a look at our district as a whole to start with."
Board member Matthew Silva added that the study could show "ownership and direction to the community."
During the meeting, Estacada resident Joe Schwab discussed the importance of the intergovernmental agreement with Clackamas.
"As a community member, I don't really care what the name is on the door. I care if there's 15 firefighters out there if my house is burning down," said Schwab. "The IGA is important to our community. I'm not so much worried about local control or not local control, because if I have another board I can talk to them too. The community wants more than two (firefighters), more than they care about the name at the side of the truck."
Bev Croghan said that "all we want basically ... is to know our safety is being looked at" and noted that she had had several firefighters at her home earlier.
"I was glad to know them all by name, but I think I would have felt just as safe if I didn't recognize them. But knowing a friend does help too," she said. "Whether we're Estacada or somebody from wherever, let's just all be content we've done the best job we can."
In a letter to the Estacada Fire Board of Directors that was included in the packet for the work session, the district's administration team wrote that "the choice to end the IGA had little explanation and was made without seeking input from all affected parties."
"With the termination of the IGA, administrative staff and employees feel this organization is going to take some big steps backward, when we feel we should be progressing toward the future and embracing change," the letter read.