Fire departments aim for July 1 consolidation

Inter-local agreements for trial effort could be signed Monday

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Nick Swinhart

A trial consolidation involving the Washougal and Camas fire departments could soon become official.

Councils from both cities are scheduled to vote on an inter-local agreement Monday.

During a discussion at the Washougal City Council workshop last night, City Administrator David Scott said the agreement “acknowledges a problem in the system.”

That is a reference to the $310,000 shortfall in the Camas 2011 emergency medical services budget.

“The two cities have acknowledged that the current financial structure of the EMS system is unsustainable,” the agreement states.

In May, the Washougal council approved a $150,000 budget amendment to help Camas offset the shortfall. It will involve transferring $95,000 to an EMS fund to offset a shortfall and spending $55,000 for a new hire at the WFD.

In conjunction with Washougal providing a firefighter/IV tech on one shift, the functional consolidation would involve firefighters, paramedics, captains and battalion chiefs. The ambulance at Station 172 (39th Street) would be relocated to Station 171 (downtown).

Functional consolidation is expected to reduce overtime by giving the Camas and Washougal fire departments flexibility to move staff from station to station to fill gaps and maintain minimum staffing. It is expected to reduce the shortfall by $115,808. That would leave $194,192 for Camas to pay, using reserves.

If approved, the trial consolidation will begin July 1 and end six months after a new Washougal firefighter is “fully functional,” as determined by the chiefs. The employee is expected to start no later than Sept. 1.

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard mentioned the future Camas Fire Chief Dominick Swinhart has experience in consolidations. Swinhart, chief of the Watertown, S.D. Fire Department, is president of the South Dakota Fire Chiefs Association.

When he was a member of the Montesano City Council from 2007 to 2009, Swinhart led consolidation discussions involving eight fire departments.

Camas Interim Fire Chief Monte Brachmann said he has been in frequent contact with Swinhart, regarding the trial consolidation process.

Swinhart is expected to start his new job at the CFD on July 5.

“He should hit the ground running,” Brachmann said.