By JESSE BURKHARDT
A tentative deal between the city of White Salmon and Fire District No. 3 appears to have resolved a source of friction between the two entities.
On the evening of Dec. 15, the White Salmon City Council voted 4-0 to approve a draft agreement with Fire District No. 3 (FD3), which serves the Husum, BZ Corner, and Snowden areas.
The contract, when finalized, will see FD3 making annual payments to White Salmon to compensate the White Salmon Fire Department for providing emergency first responses into territory officially served by FD3.
"Fire District No. 3 will pay the city of White Salmon $30,000 per year for the assistance they provide to the fire district," explained FD3 Fire Chief Chuck Virts. "The checks have been cut."
White Salmon City Council member Bob Landgren, who also served as mayor pro tempore during the Dec. 15 meeting of the City Council, said he was very supportive of the agreement offered by Fire District No. 3.
"It's a really good deal for the city," Landgren said. "Fire District No. 3 is actually paying us for our first response. We're responding to certain areas, such as Eyrie Road, the Pucker Huddle area, and the Strawberry Mountain area, quicker than Fire District No. 3 can that are within our urban growth area."
The new deal would be retroactive to June 1, 2010, and remain in effect through Dec. 31, 2013.
FD3 will also provide $10,000 a year to compensate the Bingen Fire Department. Bingen, White Salmon, and FD3 all are paged out to respond to emergency calls in the overall area served by the three jurisdictions.
"We are all partners through our mutual response agreement," Virts said.
The funds will go to the two cities to be used by the White Salmon Fire Department and the Bingen Fire Department respectively.
"We're helping the cities. We're willing to do this for three years, and then we'll revisit the agreement," said Virts.
Because the draft deal is retroactive to June 1, FD3 will pay White Salmon $15,000 for half of 2010. The figure will jump to $30,000 for 2011, 2012, and 2013.
"That money is projected to go to the Fire Department," explained Landgren. "The payments will go to the general fund, and then be passed on to the White Salmon Fire Department. The Fire Department will get that money."
Currently, to compensate White Salmon and Bingen for the emergency responses they make into FD3 territory, the fire district has been paying the salary of a fire training officer who has been working with three local firefighting agencies: Fire District No. 3, the White Salmon Fire Department, and the Bingen Fire Department.
The training officer, Jerry Nelson, is being paid roughly $20,000 a year in salary.
"Citizens are getting the benefit of it because they are getting three fire departments responding," Landgren added.
Virts said the district will continue to pay for the fire training officer, but will now add the cash payments on top of that.
Virts pointed out that several years ago, FD3 did make payments to the city of White Salmon to compensate for aid with firefighting.
"About three years ago, we did pay the city about $22,000 a year, but that was discontinued," Virts said. "We didn't pay anything for a year, then we hired Jerry Nelson to be a training officer. That is considered reciprocating to recognize the fact the White Salmon Fire Department provides a service."
Landgren estimated that as much as 40 percent of the fire calls the White Salmon Fire Department responds to are within the boundaries of FD3.
Virts attended the Dec. 15 City Council meeting and said he appreciated the support of the council members.
"The fire departments are working really well together," Virts said. "I'm pleased as can be with it, and hopefully this agreement will extend that."
Landgren said he was pleased that FD3 recognizes that the Bingen Fire Department also deserves compensation for that agency's emergency responses into FD3.
"That shows me that Fire District No. 3 understands that Bingen is a very important part of this too," Landgren said. "I'm excited Bingen is getting a payment. It shows Fire District No. 3 recognizes the teamwork that's going on."
Virts explained that FD3's Fire Commissioners unanimously approved the tentative deal to make the payments at their regular Dec. 9 meeting.
After the White Salmon City Council's vote to approve the deal, Virts said he was gratified
"It's heartening for me as fire chief to have positive statements from the City Council and mayor about how well things are going," Virts said. "What we're doing is working, and they can see it working. The White Salmon City Council has been supportive of our efforts to make fire service as good as we can make it. The administrations of all three are doing all they can to work hand in hand to provide the highest level of fire protection. My hat's off to the fire chiefs and mayors and city councils of both cities."
The Bingen City Council will take up the issue of a first response agreement with FD3 at its Dec. 21 meeting, which came after press time on Tuesday.