Camas levy increase will land on Aug. 7 ballot

Voters will decide whether to approve 11 cent bump for EMS

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Camas voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballots on a proposal to increase the current emergency medical services levy.

Last night, the Camas City Council unanimously voted to send the issue to the Aug. 7 ballot. If approved, the six-year levy would raise the current rate from 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to 46 cents. Starting in 2013, the owner of a $300,000 home would pay $138 per year — a $33 increase.

The proposed increase is an effort to stabilize the emergency medical services funding stream. In recent years the EMS fund’s revenues have dropped, primarily due to a decrease in assessed property values. At the end of 2011 the fund had a shortfall of $55,000, an amount that had to be covered by the city’s general operations fund.

According to Camas city officials’ calculations, at 46 cents the levy would put the EMS fund in the black by $237,130 by 2018. But keeping the rate at its current level would build a deficit of $2.9 million by 2018.

For more than 30 years, the local area EMS system has been supported through a partnership between Camas, Washougal and East County Fire and Rescue, with Camas being the lead agency. Through three separate voter approved tax levies, all three entities currently contribute to the system at the same rate.

The current Camas levy expires at the end of this year, while the ECFR levy expires at the end of 2014 and the Washougal levy runs out at the end of 2016.

Camas City Councilman Don Chaney encouraged city staff formulate a plan for the future that would consolidate the timing of the levies.

“We could do it all at one time and convey the importance of passing these levies in the community,” he said.

Mayor Scott Higgins agreed.

“It makes it difficult when the three partners’ time lines and amounts aren’t lined up,” he said. “It brings up a whole set of challenges.”

In other City Council news:

• The council unanimously approved a 4 percent boost in the City Administrator salary scale.

The move is in preparation for the onset of the search for a new city administrator. Current City Administrator Lloyd Halverson announced in January his plans to retire from full-time work in September after 23 years on the job,

According to the resolution, the salary range starts at $9,464 and tops out at $11,300 and takes effect as of Aug. 1. The previous scale was $9,088 to $10,852.

• The council unanimously approved the low bid from Northwest Remodel & Design of Vancouver for $9,051 for the first floor remodel of Camas City Hall.

It was one of two bids submitted for the project, which will create four new permanent walls that will be built to help create a new entryway intended to lead visitors to a central desk staffed by an administrative assistant.

The project, which is intended to provide a better point of contact for visitors to City Hall at 616 N.E. Fourth Ave., is expected to be complete by early May.

• The council unanimously approved a professional services agreement with J.D. Walsh and Associates of Vancouver for $102,021. The contract is for the design and estimated costs associated with of the improvements to Heritage Park and the Moose Lodge building, located off of Lake Road.

The proposed improvements included within the scope of the contract include a new parking area for up to 60 vehicles and trail connections at Heritage Park; renovation of the existing lodge structure — now being referred to as “Lacamas Lake Lodge;” site improvements at the lodge including parking area, concession patio, dock replacement, walkways and landscape; the addition of a left turn lane at Lake Road; trail connections between the Moose Lodge and Heritage Park; and site environmental, clearing demolition and decommissioning.

The design process is scheduled to begin in mid-April and be completed by the end of July.