Washougal Council will vote on EMS funding option

Decision on trial consolidation with CFD could occur Monday

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The Washougal City Council is expected to vote next week on an option to have the Washougal Fire Department operate under a “functional operational consolidation” with the Camas Fire Department on a trial basis.

According to information provided during the Washougal council workshop last night, city staff members are recommending “option 4” for a short term solution while additional analysis occurs for a long term fix.

The option includes 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.

Option 4 is expected to reduce the $310,000 shortfall by $115,808. That would leave $194,192 for Camas to pay, using reserves.

Washougal City Councilman and volunteer firefighter Rod Morris said the issue that is giving him “heartburn” is that both cities would use money in their reserves to offset the shortfall.

Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he is willing to support option 4 because he does not want to see the level of service reduced.

Council member Paul Greenlee said the option is “not sustainable.”

“It gives breathing space and nothing more,” he said.

Washougal Fire Chief Ron Schumacher said the departments have looked at the consolidation issue for a year.

“We can test the waters and see what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

Camas interim Fire Chief Monte Brachmann attended last night’s session but had no comments during the workshop.

During the public comment period, Washougal volunteer firefighter Larry Wagoner urged council members to not tap into reserves.

He described offsetting the EMS funding shortfall as “trying to save a dead horse” and contributing to “a money pit.”

The Washougal council will meet Monday, at 6 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.