Camas wonders how to fund critical needs

City of Camas officials will soon be grappling with how to fund several critical needs in its fire and public works departments.

Acting Camas City Administrator Jeff Swanson presented the staffing and facilities needs to Camas City Council members last week during a council planning session on April 29.

Among the city’s most pressing needs is the addition of 18 people to the Camas-Washougal fire department: three administrators, including a new fire chief, 12 firefighters to ensure the department has fire crews three-person firefighters and three firefighters to help fill the gaps caused by personnel on short and long-term disability or military leave, and the replacement of aging fire stations and CWFD emergency vehicles.

Swanson said all other fire departments in the area operate industry-standard three-person fire crews while the Camas-Washougal Fire Department and Washington County Fire and Rescue Department ‘East – which covers the more rural areas of northern Camas-Washougal – still operate two-person engine crews.

The need to fund more firefighters – and find ways to recruit new ones – has been a sticking point between municipal authorities in Camas and Washougal since 2018.

As part of the 10-year agreement that merged the two fire departments in 2013, Camas agreed to be the primary funding body for the fire department and to pay approximately 60% of service costs, leaving Washougal bear about 40% of the costs.

Washougal City Manager David Scott said city councilors “have generally recognized the need for increased staffing” at the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, but are struggling to find revenue to cover the share. of Washougal in new hires.

In May 2021, Camas hired consultants from Oregon-based Merina + CO to review the Camas-Washougal Fire Department partnership. Merina consultants later told city councilors in both towns that the current model for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department “is not feasible.”

Swanson said he thought the consultants would recommend that cities go to voters to form a regional fire authority, but warned the process could take a few years and will require building community support, but that in the interval, personnel and facilities the department needs are still critical to the department’s ability to respond to emergency medical calls, fires and vehicle collisions.

“We need to make progress in personnel, devices and facilities now because of the time it takes” to form a regional fire authority, Swanson said.

In addition to its need for more staff, the ministry also faces approximately $35 million in building and equipment replacements needed over the next few years.

Swanson and Cliff Free, the CWFD’s acting fire chief, said the downtown Camas and Washougal fire stations are scheduled for replacement over the next two to three years and that Camas will likely need a new satellite fire station to accommodate growth in the city’s North Shore region. the next five to nine years.

A consultant’s report also showed that the fire department needs to replace four fire trucks, one ladder truck, four rescue tools and two broom rigs over the next decade.

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