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Voters from both Estacada and Clackamas will consider the question of a merger during future election

Estacada Rural Fire District directors approved a contract for service with Clackamas Fire during a Wednesday, Oct. 16 meeting

The decision to merge the Estacada Rural Fire District into Clackamas Fire will be up to the voters in those districts next year.

Estacada Rural Fire District directors approved a contract for service with Clackamas Fire during a Wednesday, Oct. 16 meeting, with only John McAdoo opposed. During Clackamas' meeting on Monday, Oct. 2, directors Jim Syring, Jay Cross, Don Trotter and Thomas Joseph voted to move forward with the contract, while director Marilyn Wall voted against it.

As outlined in the agreement, voters from each district will consider the 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.

Directors Matthew Silva, Ken Oliver, John Bresko and Ed Thoreson all approved the contract. Clackamas Fire District directors approved the contract in a 4-1 vote on Monday, Oct. 22.

"From a sensibility standpoint of providing the best possible service to the community, what's before you this evening has been really thought through, and I think it's the best for the community," said Silva.

Some members of the audience of the Estacada meeting clapped when the contract was adopted.

During Clackamas' meeting earlier this week, Director Jim Syring outlined several reasons why he supports the contract for service, including a specific time frame and financial elements.

"This one has that election built into it. In the end, I would never withhold allowing our voters to be given the facts and to vote on an issue. I would vote 'yes' just for the sole fact to let our two voter groups decide the issue for themselves," he said. "To me, everything I see is definitely not a subsidization."

He added that given the proximity of the two fire districts, it makes sense to combine resources.

"One of our chiefs said, if you look at the map, our district goes around Estacada on three sides," Syring stated. "Those additional FTEs (in the contract for service or merger), at no cost to our taxpayers, are going to help, whether they're called into those areas or whether there's a greater alarm fire and they're going into Boring," he said.

Clackamas Director Thomas Joseph appreciated that the contract benefited both the Estacada and Clackamas communities.

"This is benefiting the citizens. It's not just Clackamas, and it's not just Estacada . . . Ultimately, it does not matter if a person lives in Estacada or Happy Valley. We, as the fire district, have a responsibility to serve equally. It doesn't matter what area, what neighborhood they're in," he said.

Director Marilyn Wall, who was the sole vote on the Clackamas side against the merger, expressed financial concerns and skepticism to the benefit of the merger to Clackamas Fire's more rural areas, such as the Logan and Highland stations.

"It does not appear to me, with the exception of Eagle Creek, that either Logan or Highland have any significant responses, and they're all reporting that they're well within our rural time frame," she said.

Future collaboration

During a meeting on Monday, Oct. 21, Clackamas Fire's board approved an extension of the current intergovernmental agreement until the contract goes into effect at the beginning of next year. The two groups first established an IGA in 2016.

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 consisted 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.

The contract will begin on Jan. 1, 2020, and continue through Jun. 30, 3021. 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, and Clackamas will provide Estacada with 24-hour fire chief coverage. If a merger is approved, staffing at the Estacada Fire Station will increase to four people.

When the contract goes into effect, Estacada's employees and volunteers will be transferred to Clackamas Fire District.

During the contract, Estacada Fire will pay Clackamas $1,458,256 for services from Jan. 1, 2020, through Jun. 30, 2020 and $2,865,941 for services from Jul. 1, 2020 through Jun. 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.

According to the contract, "(Clackamas Fire) will maintain the identity of vehicles and apparatus assigned to EFD stations. (Clackamas Fire) shall identify that it serves EFD on apparatus, in promotional, website, social media, and educational materials."

There will also be a joint oversight review committee, consisting of two elected officials from Estacada Fire, two elected officials from Clackamas Fire and the district fire chief or another designee. The group will consider the services provided, policy development, budget development and financial aspects of the contract. The group "shall meet at least monthly for the first 6-months of the agreement and quarterly thereafter."

If voters from both fire districts approve a merger, Clackamas will retain all five positions on the district's Board of Directors. Estacada's previous board members, along with other qualified citizens from both areas, will be eligible to run for positions 2 and 4 on Clackamas' Fire Board in the May 2021 election.

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