Estacada Fire caught in a problem of its own making
I read both the recent story and opinion piece about the current Clackamas Fire/Estacada Fire intergovernmental agreement issue.
The article and opinion piece were semi-accurate and factually incomplete.
As a citizen, I managed the campaign to annex the Boring Fire District with Clackamas Fire District No. 1. My perspective is that several years ago I found that the Damascus area residents of the Boring Fire District were paying two-thirds of the taxes, and getting virtually nothing in the way of service. I corrected that by helping drive a voter approved annexation that brought far better service to our entire Boring/Damascus/Eagle Creek community. We also insisted that Boring Fire residents help pay the capital bond that Clackamas Fire voters had passed the year before. Because we were going to benefit from those funds we should help pay the debt. Fair is fair.
Given that history, I am not inclined to tolerate my community now subsidizing the substandard condition of fire service in Estacada. Been there... as the kids say.
I am happy to help a neighbor in need, but not to enable them to avoid hard choices. The full feasibility study including future options would take an impartial look at the cost and service factors at a much more detailed and comprehensive manner, as a way to guide how best to effectively provide emergency services to a fairly remote, difficult area shared by the two departments with the assets that are available. It makes so much sense it is difficult to understand opposition from any rational, common sense perspective.
Unfortunately both the article and the op-ed are incorrect as to what Estacada Fire wanted to do concerning the study parameters.
I was at the joint meeting between the two boards several weeks back. Estacada Fire Commissioner Chris Randall made a rational and impassioned statement in support of a full study. For the rest of the Estacada board, other than board chair Matt Silva, the other Estacada commissioners said virtually nothing, except "No" when asked if they wanted to say anything.
At a meeting specifically scheduled and arranged so the two boards could discuss the situation, their behavior was as unimpressive as it was informing as to who is driving the bus.
Chair Silva stated Estacada was willing to do a study, but didn't want the consultants to give recommendations for possible next steps, or if there were recommendations, that a possible future annexation not be one of them.
It was as stunningly ill-considered a public statement as any I have heard from a public official, and I sat in Damascus City Hall many times for many ill-considered statements.
As I have tried to explain the situation to people who have asked, imagine that you decide to have a mechanic look over your car to see what's-good, what's-bad, what's-so-so. But you don't want him to give you any recommendations for what problem to fix first, or if you do get recommendations, for sure don't tell you if it is just plain time to buy a new car. What thought process can make spending money to get nothing of any practical value seem a good idea?
People should know discussions concerning the IGA and the feasibility study have been ongoing for months between the organizations' staffs and an Interagency Committee comprised of board members from both Estacada and Clackamas. This issue did not just arise suddenly at one of these latest meetings.
The reality the people of Estacada must come to understand is that Estacada Fire is exactly where Boring Fire was four or five years ago. Time, demographics, peoples' schedules and lives, and fiscal reality have marched on, while a group of board members watch the pretty bright light at the end of the tunnel as it rushes toward them and the community they are supposed to be representing.
A community must have people on elected fire boards who are solely focused on community safety, even when the choices become difficult. At Boring Fire, it took replacing a few board members to find ones willing to make tough choices to provide that safety to a community. The people of Estacada will likely need to do the same.
There is far more to all this, but the recent coverage does a disservice to the people of Estacada by providing cover for a board that ought not get much cover.
Cl`ackamas Fire is not the bad guy in this situation in any way. Clackamas Fire has gone above and beyond the IGA and being a good neighbor to help Estacada, but in the end must also be mindful of its own citizens.
The people of Estacada need to understand the difficult reality of what they face and why.
That difficulty isn't being caused by Clackamas Fire District No. 1, but they are ready and willing to help Estacada just as they were for my community.
Chris Hawes lives in Damascus.