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Current intergovernmental agreement between the districts was extended through the end of October

VIA KOIN - A Clackamas Fire engine responds to a recent blaze in 2019
During meetings last week, the boards of directors for the Estacada Rural Fire District and Clackamas Fire District approved an extension of an intergovernmental agreement and opted to move forward with developing a contract for service that will be considered next month.

If both groups approve the contract for service, voters from each district may consider an integration of Estacada Fire into Clackamas Fire during the November 2020 election. The integration would need to be approved by constituents of both Estacada and Clackamas to take effect.

During Clackamas Fire's board meeting on Monday, Sept. 16, directors present unanimously gave consensus to move forward with developing a contract of service that the boards will vote on next month. (Clackamas Fire Director Marilyn Wall was absent from the meeting.) At Estacada Fire's board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19, directors Matthew Silva, Ken Oliver and John Bresko gave consensus to move forward, while director John McAdoo requested to consider it at the next meeting.

The current intergovernmental agreement between the two agencies was extended through the end of October. Clackamas Fire Chief Fred Charlton noted that if a contract is approved during the boards' meetings next month, he would ask that the IGA be extended through the end of the year. If either or both boards need additional time to review the draft contract for service, he would request an extension of the IGA during that period.

Charlton added that it has not yet been determined when the board will decide to send the question of integration to voters, but it would likely be a topic of discussion next spring.

This summer, a feasibility study from Emergency Services Consulting International was paid for by the Estacada and Clackamas fire districts and recommended a merger. The interagency committee, which consists of Clackamas Fire board President Jim Syring, Clackamas Fire director Thomas Joseph, Silva and Oliver, opted to bring a contract for service to both boards for consideration.

Continued collaboration

A proposed timeline discussed at both meetings last week noted that if a contract for service is approved, it would be in effect from Jan. 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. The contract is estimated to cost $1,458,256 from Jan. 1-June 30, 2020 and $2,865,941 from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. Any additional tax revenue received by the Estacada Rural Fire District during the contract for service will be placed in its reserve fund.

"What a contract for service does (is that) Clackamas manages our tax money. It still remains Estacada fire, but they're just managing our fire district," said Oliver.

If the contract for service is approved, Clackamas Fire will staff the Estacada Fire Station with three firefighters for all 24 hour shifts, something that Estacada Fire can provide only 68% of the time. The George Fire Station will be staffed with additional volunteers if the contract is approved.

If an annexation is approved, board members would like to see staffing at the Estacada Fire station increased to four people.

"More details will come if we get to the point of drafting a contract proposal," Charlton stated during Estacada Fire's meeting.

During a contract for service and any potential merger, all Estacada Fire staff members and volunteers would remain a part of the organization. Charlton said that "along with service delivery, the most important thing will be the transition of employees and volunteers."

"We know through succession planning that Clackamas Fire is going to have a number of vacancies coming up over the next 12 to 24 months. So we want to make sure that we can maximize the talent coming over from Estacada Fire and fill some of our vacancies," he said.

Silva added that, "our people are our number one resource."

"We can give you the shiniest fire trucks in the world. . .but it's the people who make the service the quality of what it is. So no matter what decision we make, we will always take care of our people," Silva said.

Estacada and Clackamas first established an intergovernmental agreement in 2016. Through the most recent version of the IGA, Estacada receives fire prevention, training and enhanced services from Clackamas Fire. Enhanced services 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 pre-hospital field care; and a joint operational plan for water tender operators and rehab volunteers.

For enhanced services paid monthly, Estacada paid Clackamas $6,079.90 from February through June; and $6,117.71 July through September. For training services, Estacada paid Clackamas $2,890 monthly February through June, and $2,919 monthly July through September. For fire prevention services, Estacada paid Clackamas $6,740 monthly February through June, and $6,807 monthly July through September.

Investigation activities are billed at a separate hourly rate.

"Right now (Clackamas provides) prevention services, and so far, that's shown that it works," said Silva. " But we don't know if it would work for them to manage the whole logistics, building maintenance and so on. . .Both boards would need to say, 'Yeah, this really makes sense. And this would be a cost savings, or maybe not a cost savings, but we could provide additional resources and staffing to serve the community.'"

Mutual benefit

Along with providing increased levels of service in Estacada, a contract would also provide faster service to several of Clackamas Fire's stations in the area, including Highland, Logan, Clarkes and Eagle Creek.

"We think there is an opportunity that if we can increase or provide advanced life support staffing in Estacada, between Estacada fire and those other fire stations, we can provide better coverage in those areas that are hard to serve," Charlton said. "It would be nice to have a little more staffing out in that Southern/Eastern part of the fire district."

Syring described Logan, Highland and Eagle Creek as "the three most underserved areas of our fire district."

"This is looking at (a) long term way to help those citizens. So this isn't all about what we can do for Estacada. This proposal benefits Clackamas a lot," he said.

As Estacada's board of directors took a vote on the matter, Silva cited increased services to community members as an important factor.

"I don't know how I can face our citizens and say, 'I can't recommend this.' There will be growing pains, but the intentions are good," he said. "We're going to try to provide the best service to the community 24/7."

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