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Fire Departments Ink Aid Deal

Both sides happy with new agreement

With a new contract in place that will cover the next five years, two local fire departments appear to be pleased with the end result.

The White Salmon Fire Department and Klickitat County Fire District No. 3 (Husum area) recently agreed on a deal that will run until 2012.

"We settled on a contract -- Fire District No. 3 will pay us $22,000 a year for five years. It had been $15,000 a year," explained White Salmon Fire Chief Bill Hunsaker.

The funds are designed to compensate the White Salmon Fire Department for expenses incurred when White Salmon firefighters respond to calls in the Fire District No. 3's territory.

"The money is spent on fire protection," explained Fire District No. 3 Fire Commissioner Bill Mason. "It's largely an insurance policy, and it does provide added protection. The money is geared to compensate the White Salmon Fire Department for expenses and updating equipment in order to handle covering portions of the Fire District 3 service area."

Hunsaker said that during the time Linda Jones served as White Salmon's mayor, the city had requested that the amount paid to White Salmon for reimbursement for expenses related to covering District 3 territory be boosted from $15,000 per year to $43,000.

"That started a conflict," Hunsaker recalled.

The proposed large increase was sharply protested by Fire District No. 3 officials, who openly discussed building a new fire station north of White Salmon rather than pay the suggested $43,000 compensation costs.

Mason praised Hunsaker for finding a way around a controversial situation that had left the departments without a formal agreement for nearly two years.

"Bill Hunsaker is a remarkable person. He was extremely agreeable and accommodating," Mason said. "He was remarkably diplomatic and smoothed things out."

"He [Hunsaker] deserves a lot of credit for that," agreed Herb Hardin, a resident of Fire District No. 3. "Residents here will save probably $150 a year in increased fire insurance costs."

Although both departments continued to provide mutual aid in the event of emergency calls, Hunsaker said having the new deal in place is a big help.

"Our two districts are working very well together. We like working with Fire District No. 3, and we're delighted to have an agreement," Hunsaker said. "We will be the first to respond into the area around Columbia High School and the Pucker Huddle area."

The high school and the Pucker Huddle community are within Fire District No. 3, but since White Salmon's fire station is significantly closer than the Husum fire station is, White Salmon units are called on to be the first to respond.

"Obviously, both districts would respond to something like that," Mason added. "But the White Salmon station is less than a mile away from the high school. They can certainly get there a lot faster."

Mason added that he believes the new agreement benefits both departments.

"For a couple years we didn't have an agreement and didn't compensate them at all," Mason said. "It's good to be back on track."

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