By Nick Swinhart, Guest Columnist
In 1979, four visionary fire chiefs came together to ensure the public safety needs for our community for generations to come. Deloy Little of Camas, Darrell Alder of Washougal, Bob Holland of Clark County Fire District 1 and Clyde Webberley of Clark County Fire District 9 signed a document that established what became known as the “Three Parties Agreement.” This agreement provided for the funding of a paramedic transport service in the East Clark County area. The money was to be used for hiring personnel, buying equipment and providing for the ongoing emergency medical training needs of the involved departments.
The state of Washington provides cities the ability to use an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levy of up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to provide a stable, dedicated funding source for this service. Since the initial establishment of the EMS program in 1979, Camas voters have approved these EMS levies. The current Camas EMS levy is set at 46 cents per $1,000 of valuation. This levy will expire at the end of 2018. On Feb. 13, 2018, Camas voters will be asked to re-authorize this levy at the same 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
A lot has changed since 1979. In 1979, an ambulance cost around $30,000. Today, they cost closer to $200,000. At the same time, emergency call volume has increased over 300 percent in that 38 year time span, and 34 percent in just the past six years. The 2011 merger between the Camas and Washougal Fire Departments brought an increased level of service and staffing for both communities and the Camas EMS levy re-authorization will provide continued funding for this important function.
The EMS levy is a dedicated source of funding to support the provision of EMS and ambulance transport in Camas. Re-authorizing this levy will maintain Camas’ current level of emergency medical services. Camas Proposition 1 will continue a stable funding source for essential services for the years 2019-2025. At 46 cents per $1,000 valuation, the EMS levy will help ensure the financial viability of our system for years to come. Without the replacement of the EMS levy, your Camas-Washougal Fire Department will unlikely be able to maintain the same level of service to Camas citizens.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, please remember to vote on Feb. 13.
Nick Swinhart is the fire chief of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department and East County Fire & Rescue.