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Merger of Dee, Parkdale fire districts goes to voters

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

October 18, 2006

Candidate signs dotting lawns like mushrooms overnight show that a fall election is just weeks away.

But one measure that may not have received as much attention as other issues is the proposal within Hood River County for the merger of two fire districts in the Upper Valley. Dee and Parkdale have separate rural fire protection districts even though the volunteers train together.

“People think it’s already happened because we’ve been training together for more than a year,” said Mike McCafferty, Parkdale fire chief.

The measure proposal would tax residents at the rate of the surviving district, which would be Parkdale. The rate is $1.511 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“Tax-wise it’s just about a push — so close it’s basically the same,” said Roger Nelson.

He chairs the district board for Dee RFPD. In order to pass, the measure needs a majority in each district to approve the measure in the Nov. 7 election.

The idea of merging the two districts has been kicked around before now. McCafferty and Assistant Fire Chief Rod Blumenthal said they have heard the idea come and go during their respective 17 and 27 years with the department.

“The last time it came up was when there was a lack of volunteers; nobody had the time to go through with it (drawing up the paperwork),” Blumenthal said.

He said the issue would get dropped after new people joined. Dee has six volunteers now while Parkdale has 38. Craig Danner became the Dee fire chief a few years ago and the two districts began holding more joint trainings.

“They began dropping in to train and then after we hired a full-time training officer we just combined our weekly sessions,” McCafferty said.

At their August meetings, each of the fire district boards passed respective measures to put the issue on the Nov. 7 ballot.

What Parkdale would absorb from Dee is a fire district where the boundaries include all of Dee Flat, along Highway 281 to the railroad crossing. It’s an area they already know well as Parkdale covers it for emergency medical services as part of their ambulance district.

Between now and Nov. 7, the fire chiefs and fire district board members are trying to get out the vote. Blumenthal said voters should understand that neither district is being forced to take the action.

“We are not being forced by regulation or financial reasons,” he said.

McCafferty added that it just seems wise to pool resources to get the job done. If the measure passes, the Dee substation will remain intact with all of its equipment. It will also still be open to Dee residents for use as a community center. The one thing that would change is the name.

“The Dee name will be retired,” Nelson said.

If the measure passes, the two separate boards of 5 directors would meet and elect a board of five from among the current members.

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