By SUE RYAN
News staff writer
July 19, 2006
Hood River County Commissioners approved moving the request to form a fire district in Cascade Locks to the next step.
The city had put the request before the commission to put a tax levy of $1 per 1,000 on the fall ballot for voters to decide. The levy would fund the formation of a fire district, which would essentially be the borders of the town.
Legal counsel Will Carey said the commission must hold a final hearing on the issue not less than 30 or more than 50 days from Monday night. The commissioners chose to hold the final hearing at their Sept. 5 meeting.
Both proponents and one opponent testified on the issue before the council voted. Sandra Kelley said she opposed the fire district because she did not see the need to add layers of more government as well as adding more taxes.
“Because our town does not enjoy the level of income the rest of Hood River County does,” she said. “It’s important to understand everybody has to live within their means.”
After she cited the town spends “a lot of money,” Cascade Locks budget officer Kate Mast detailed for the commissioners how the $10 million budget is allocated. A little more than half the budget is from grants the city has yet to receive.
“That leaves an operating budget of $3 million with just $700,000 for all other expenses in the general fund,” she said. “The idea is to put a permanent solution in place rather than to try and band-aid it every single year.”
Even if the levy for the fire district is approved, Cascade Locks will still pay for about half of the emergency services budget. Fire chief Jeff Pricher pointed out that although the title deals with fire, the bigger issue deals with the full spectrum of emergency service.
“One of the reasons we brought me on was to have advanced life support for the majority of the day,” he said. “With the ambulance the problem we had was staffing.”
In addition to being fire chief, Pricher is a trained paramedic. Before Cascade Locks funded the position, they relied on a volunteer who worked at Bonneville Dam and had to leave work in order to respond to calls. That need is why city councilor Rob Brostoff spoke in favor of the district.
“Between Wyeth and Multnomah Falls we’re the only responder,” he said. “If someone gets smeared out there on that highway, we have to take care of it.”