OCEAN PARK - The Pacific County Fire District No.1 Board of Commissioners has come to what seems to be their final decision on local emergency medical service (EMS) contracts.
District commissioners held special meetings on July 5 and July 11 to discuss the seven-month-long debate regarding EMS contracts with Long Beach, Ilwaco and Chinook. District No.1 currently serves the three towns, in addition to Ocean Park and surrounding areas, with EMS.
"District No.1 is spending $148,000 worth of funds that they do not have in order to serve Long Beach, Ilwaco and Chinook. There is nothing we can do at this point for a conclusion," explained Commissioner Greg McLeod.
Acting Fire Chief Jacob Brundage said that although the Ilwaco City Council has said that they do not have any problems with District No.1's service, they couldn't offer any suggestions as to what to do about the funding situation.
McLeod suggested pursuing a local improvement district (LID) lift, and sending out letters regarding the issue, complete with dollar amounts. Commissioner Fred Hill suggested that the letters discuss the option of an EMS levy and cancellation the current contract as of Dec. 31, 2006.
"We are going to be made out to be the bad guys in this situation, no matter what. We need to make the best decision for the Peninsula, but if any of the cities reject it, then it is no longer the board's decision," said McLeod.
Commissioner Tom Downer stated that although the present interlocal agreements are unsatisfactory or nonexistent, the cost should not be based on the number of taxpayers in each city, but on how many calls each area receives.
"It all boils down to the demand for service," Downer said. "We prefer the protection of life over the protection of property, but 36 percent of emergency transport calls are outside of District No.1 and in an area where other services are responsible. We have no assets - each of our ambulances only last us about two years."
McLeod emphasized that the citizens need to be involved, but disagreed with Downer's plan for the division of costs. McLeod preferred to determine costs by a levy that would charge homeowners 50 cents per $1,000 of the 2007 total assessed home value - the same method by which Fire District No. 1 taxpayers pay for their EMS services.
Hill motioned that the board go into further discussion on the 50 cents per $1,000 idea, the motion was seconded by McLeod.
Downer informed the board that the earliest EMS cash flow from a property tax levy would be in 2008, due to missing the 2007 deadline that was this last June.
A motion was made to send a letter to District No. 2 (Chinook) to cancel the EMS contract 180 days from the date the letter was written. A separate motion was made to send a letter to Ilwaco to also cancel the EMS contract 180 days from the letter's date.
According to the board, Long Beach was offered a contract from District No.1, but never accepted or signed the contract.
A motion was made to send a letter to Long Beach stating that the previous contract offers will be invalid and that they will be withdrawn from any proposed EMS service contracts 180 days from the letter's date.
McLeod and Brundage proposed to send out service contracts to Long Beach, Ilwaco and Chinook that use the 50 cents per $1,000 plan and proposes a $4,000 discount incentive for each city.
The board estimates that Long Beach would receive $92,000 from residents in levy taxes if passed, and would pay $88,000 for a one-year EMS service contract with District No.1. Ilwaco is estimated to receive $32,000 from residents and would pay $28,000 for a one-year contract, and Chinook would receive approximately $24,000 and would pay $20,000 for the contract.
Board members decided that the contract should be subjected to District No.1 financial review every six months so that the amounts may be adjusted. They also concluded that each city would be responsible for the levy outcome and would be responsible for the election costs.
Board members agreed that if a city rejects the contract, the city's EMS services will not be able to continue the way they are currently. One option might be to charge out-of-town rates for EMS services delivered by District No. 1 outside the district. If a city chooses, they can hire an outside company to take care of EMS calls.
The contract cancellation letters were received by Long Beach, Ilwaco, and Chinook on July 12.
"We (the city council) haven't had time to think about it yet," said Long Beach finance director, Dave Glasson. "Our goal is cost effective services for our citizens. The past contract did not seem to be in the best interest of the city of Long Beach ... We are currently reviewing all of our options and everything is on the table."
Ilwaco city officials could not be reached for comment.
Other topics on the agenda included the fire chief selection process and a volunteer to create a marketing and advertising campaign to increase the number of volunteers, who will be required to meet standards set by District No. 1.