OCEAN PARK - Pacific County Fire District No. 1 Commissioners got together on Jan. 9 for their monthly meeting and heard good news about district finances. As the first order of business, accountant Greg McLeod was elected board chairman and Fred Hill vice-chairman.
District Fire Chief Jacob Brundage told commissioners the district has about $100,000 more in the budget than the previous year, in part due to the sale of a piece of unused district property on Sandridge. They are continuing to work to ensure the district is financially sound and well managed.
Along those lines, he also told the commissioners the district received a number of grants for various goals.
Chief Brundage said, as of the meeting, the district had already responded to between 40 and 50 calls this year. In 2006 the district responded to 2,480 calls, a high number considering the community's size, but not surprising because of the population dynamics, with the large number of retirees and seniors in the area with special medical needs.
He said they are still working out the exact boundary lines and service areas with the county for the district. Some properties, about 70, fall outside both the district and city boundaries, creating a "no-man's land" which has been serviced by the district. Letters have been sent to those property owners, and Brundage said they were getting "a good response," with those people contacting the district for information and possible options. Commissioner McLeod emphasized that "we won't do anything different," for those areas and will respond to calls until final arrangements can be made settling the response areas.
On a similar topic, the commissioners decided they would like to move forward on a proposal "authorizing write-off of ambulance transport charges that are in excess of the amount paid by insurance for taxpayers of Fire District No. 1."
Often, the amount paid by insurance companies for an ambulance call is less than the actual bill, depending on the insurance provider. The difference between the two is the responsibility of the patient.
However, commissioners are proposing that the district not charge that difference to people who bring in documentation showing they pay the district's fire and emergency medical services levy part of property taxes, to the district. Those property owners currently in "no-man's land" could contract with the district to continue services. Although the proposal is still in the development stage, the commissioners said they would support such a resolution. "It will go a long way in proving that we work for the taxpayers," said Commissioner Hill.
The commission also reluctantly approved Policy 705 on participating in mobilization requests from outside agencies, such as the state or the department of natural resources, in the event of a large emergency. The policy is a revision of an existing policy, rather than a new policy. The policy is mainly designed for major disasters such as large forest fires where large numbers of personnel from various agencies respond.
"I think it's important for us to be involved in this in case we are ever in need," said Commissioner Tom Downer.
"But I think we're going to need waterwings," said Commissioner McLeod, tongue in cheek, referring to the ocean-oriented type of natural disasters the Peninsula is vulnerable to.
The commission also agreed to table a proposed agreement with ORCAA, the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency for a later discussion. The agreement was written by ORCAA, which asked the district to sign it.
As of the first of this year, a law went into effect that prohibits outdoor burning, except for small campfires, in all urban growth areas. Seaview is the only area in the district's jurisdiction that is in an urban growth area. Long Beach, Ilwaco, Raymond and South Bend are the others in Pacific County.
The commissioners' objection to the agreement is neatly summed up in one of the clauses, which states, "ORCAA may request that Pacific County Fire District 1, to the best of its ability, extinguish an outdoor fire if, in the course of its response to a burn complaint, the District finds the violator unable or unwilling to extinguish the fire." In effect, the district would become the enforcement arm of ORCAA for the outdoor burn ban in Seaview.
"I don't believe the fire department should in the police business," said McLeod.