Cities come to temporary agreement on firefighter pay

Washougal will fund its share of 6 new positions through 2022

Camas city leaders have agreed to again amend the interlocal agreement that formed the Camas-Washougal Fire Department in 2013.

Under the new amendment, approved by Camas City Council members during a June 21 council meeting, the city of Washougal has agreed to fund six of the fire department’s nine new hires through the end of 2022.

CWFD Fire Chief Nick Swinhart told Camas council members the city of Washougal had agreed to continue funding its share for two of the four firefighter-paramedics the city of Camas hired in 2019, as well as four firefighter positions in the city of Camas’ 2021-22 budget.

Under the interlocal agreement signed by both cities in 2013, Camas pays for roughly 60 percent of the fire department’s costs and has the power to hire more staff, while Washougal pays about 40 percent of the department’s overall costs.

When Camas city officials agreed in 2019 that the department needed to hire at least four new firefighters, Washougal city leaders said they couldn’t afford to pay their share for all four positions.

Washougal City Manager David Scott said in June that Washougal officials wanted to hold off on hiring new firefighters until an analysis of the partnership’s funding strategies was completed.

“Our preference was to wait for this partnership analysis to be completed to see what our future partnership (would look like),” Scott told Camas councilors on June 21. “But, certainly, we respect the Camas Council’s preference to hire what you thought was appropriate.”

The Camas City Council agreed to hire four new firefighters in 2019, along with a deputy fire marshal, and add another four firefighters to the city’s 2021-22 budget.

Washougal has agreed to pull funds from their fire department reserve fund to help pay that city’s share of the four firefighters included in Camas’ 2021-22 budget, as well its share for two of the four firefighters hired in 2019.

The city of Camas is shouldering all of the costs for the fire department’s new deputy fire marshal as well as two of the four firefighters hired in 2019.

Washougal has agreed to fund 40 percent of the six firefighter positions through the end of 2022 “with no commitment to funding beyond that,” Swinhart said.

In May, Camas officials approved a $94,770 contract with the Tualatin, Oregon-based Merina + CO to review the merger of Camas’ and Washougal’s fire departments.

The consultant is meeting with stakeholders, conducting a facilitated analysis of the decade-long partnership between the cities’ fire departments that formed the existing Camas-Washougal Fire Department in December 2013, and developing recommendations for the future of fire and emergency medical services in the Camas-Washougal area.

City leaders in Camas and Washougal hope the consultants will help find a solution that allows the fire department to meet the community’s growth and increased needs without putting financial strain on any one jurisdiction.

“The cost-sharing formula that forms the basis of the CWFD merger has created friction in the partnership, and has, at times, threatened the continuance of it,” Swinhart told city councilors in May. “Both cities have expressed frustration at their inability to fund the necessary growth of the fire department.”

“We believe the agreement has been very good for both cities,” the fire chief continued, “but there have been some bumps in the road, particularly when it comes to the cost-sharing formula being equitable. There are concerns on both sides, in both cities.”

The Camas Council approved the amendment to the interlocal agreement as part of the Council’s consent agenda at the June 21 regular council meeting. City of Washougal councilors also are expected to approve the amendment this week.