ECFR begins strategic planning process

The public is encouraged to participate

“Where are we now? Where are we going? How will we get there?”

Those are the three questions East County Fire and Rescue commissioners hope will be answered as part of an upcoming strategic planning process. It’s an endeavor that Chairwoman Martha Martin hopes will include significant community, staff and commissioner involvement.

“For this strategic plan to be successful,” she said, “people need to know that their input and participation is important.”

The initial kickoff meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 11, from 1 to 4 p.m., at ECFR Fern Prairie Station 91, 600 N.E. 267th Ave.

The process will be facilitated as part of a training program run by the State Auditor’s Office, at no cost to the district. There will also be an opportunity for continued assistance, at no cost to ECFR, to develop the strategic plan.

“The training will be interactive, with everyone who attends getting the opportunity to participate,” Martin said. “There will be a facilitator who will lead small groups in the experience of thinking strategically. Folks will learn about the strategic plan process.”

Martin said there is value in thinking long-term.

“The value of a strategic plan is that it can help your organization do a better job by focusing the energy, resources and time of everyone in the organization in the same direction,” she said. “It can also provide ECFR with a road map for not just this year, but for at least five or more years into the future.”

In recent years, ECFR has dealt with a number of challenges including a reduction in some of its revenue streams, and questions about whether it should merge with neighboring jurisdictions.

In addition, at the end of 2014, budget cuts included the elimination of three firefighter positions primarily due to the sunset of a three-year Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Rather than continue to take a reactionary posture, a strategic plan will allow ECFR to be more proactive regarding the direction it takes for the future,” Martin added.

ECFR currently has six full-time and five part-time paid firefighters, in addition to 50 volunteers who provide fire protection and emergency medical service response to the 10,000 residents who live within the 60 square miles of unincorporated area that are north of and east of the cities of Camas and Washougal.

In other ECFR Commission news, on Feb. 3, the board approved a salary increase for Acting Chief Dean Thornberry.

Through April 8, Thornberry will earn an additional $1,000 per month as he takes on both the acting chief and deputy chief duties. His base salary is $95,500 per year, plus benefits.

Thornberry has worked for the district since December 2003 when he was hired by Clark County Fire District 9 as a battalion chief. In 2007, after the merger of Fire Districts 1 and 9 formed ECFR in 2006, he was promoted to assistant chief, then to deputy chief in 2012.

Former Chief Scott Koehler’s contract with ECFR was terminated by the commission on Jan. 7.

Commissioner Mike Berg said in three months time the district will have taken several positive steps forward.

“That should get us through two more board members being on hand (to fill current vacancies due to resignations), and then we can have a joint decision about which way we are going to go,” he said. “We’ll also have had one strategic planning meeting, and at least one more set.”