Feasibility study between the two districts will examine all options, including merger

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Estacada Rural Fire District leadership has agreed to a continued intergovernmental agreement and feasability study with Clackamas Fire.

The Estacada and Clackamas Fire Districts will continue an agreement for services and conduct a full feasibility study this year.

The Estacada Rural Fire District's Board of Directors approved an intergovernmental agreement and contract for the feasibility study during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17, and the Clackamas Fire District's Board of Directors approved both documents during a meeting on Monday, Jan. 28.

The feasibility study will examine aspects of both fire districts and ultimately may recommend any of the following: remain autonomous, continue to work within an IGA, contract for additional services or legally annex or integrate. If the districts were to integrate, it would require approval from both boards of directors, along with approval from voters in each district.

Previously, Estacada's board had agreed to conduct a study that explored the services they share with Clackamas Fire and ways in which they could be expanded or reduced, but not consider the possibility of merging the two districts, citing a desire from the public to keep local control of the fire district.

Because of this, Clackamas had previously given notice that it intended to withdraw from the IGA, which was established in 2016.

In October, Kristy Williams, daughter of previous Estacada Fire Chief Bob Morrisey, filed a petition to recall Estacada board members John McAdoo, Matthew Silva, Ed Thoreson and John Bresko because they were unwilling to work with Clackamas Fire on a full feasibility study. She did not file a petition for a recall election of director Chris Randall because of his previous support of a full feasibility study with Clackamas.

However, officials from the Clackamas County Elections Department said they have not received any signatures for the recall.

In September, Estacada Fire board members opted to conduct a standalone study to chart out the district's future, and Matrix Consulting Group later presented the district with a five year financial overview.

Matrix found that if the IGA with Clackamas was terminated and Estacada Fire hired an additional deputy chief and training officer, total expenditures for 2023-24 were estimated at $4,065,265. If the IGA was terminated and three additional firefighters were hir-

ed, total expenditures for 2023-24 were estimated at $4,487,131.

Conversely, if the IGA was continued, total operating expenses for the Estacada Fire District for 2023-24 were estimated at $3,939,108.

"Looking at that five year projection, we saw a budget shortfall. It was not a shortfall for service but for replacing engines and apparatuses in the future," said Chris Randall, a member of Estacada Fire's Board of Directors. "We want to be sure we're providing the best level of service for the community and keeping our firefighters safe."

Looking to the future

of both fire districts

The feasibility study is expected to take five months to complete and will recommend options for the future of the Clackamas and Estacada Fire Districts and will include organizational and system overviews; review of staffing and personnel; financial reviews; and reviews of facilities, apparatuses and vehicles for both districts. It will also consider service delivery and performance, and support programs.

The work will be completed by Emergency Services Consulting International, who conducted a feasibility study between the Clackamas and Boring Fire Districts in 2014. The group also worked with Estacada Fire on a strategic plan in 2016.

Randall estimated that the feasibility study would be completed in July. Once that happens, there will be public outreach and joint meetings of both boards to discuss the findings and next steps for each fire district.

The cost of the study is not to exceed $51,148, which will be split equally between the two districts. The Estacada Fire District requested the cost be evenly split.

"(With the 50 percent cost split), public perception is that this is a partnership," Interim Estacada Fire Chief Jason Crowe said during a Clackamas Fire board work session on Thursday, Jan. 24.

"It shows the community we are both equally into this," Clackamas Fire Board of Directors Vice President Don Trotter said during a meeting on Monday, Jan. 28.

Shared services

The new IGA between Clackamas and Estacada will begin Friday, Feb. 1 and continue through Monday, Sept. 30, an end date that is based on the feasibility study's timeline.

Through the IGA, Estacada will receive fire prevention, training and enhanced services from Clackamas Fire. Enhanced services will include staffing the Eagle Creek Fire Station 40 hours per week; response units to ensure effective response to fires and other incidents; advanced life support staffing, which is the highest level of prehospital field care; and a joint operational plan for water tender operators and rehab volunteers.

For enhanced services, Estacada will pay Clackamas $6,079.9 monthly February through June, and $6,117.71 monthly July through September. For training services, Estacada will pay Clackamas $2,890 monthly February through June, and $2,919 monthly July through September.

For fire prevention services, Estacada will pay Clackamas $6,740 monthly February through June, and $6,807 monthly July through September. Investigation activities, which must be requested by Estacada, will be billed at a seperate hourly rate. Previously, these costs were estimated using data from previous years.

Though Estacada previously participated in Clackamas' recruitment academy, the cost is no longer included in the IGA because they will conduct their own. The six-month-long academy focuses on training for new volunteers.

Randall praised the services Estacada receives through the IGA, noting that "mutual aid is not as robust."

Clackamas Fire Board of Directors President Jim Syring praised the professionalism of both district's boards and staff and noted that he

looks forward to the work to come.

"We feel very confident," he said during a meeting on Monday, Jan. 28.

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