The City of Hood River is ready to get out of the consulting business.
After being presented with a renewed consulting agreement with the City of Cascade Locks to provide EMS services, the city council said it would approve a contract — but only if it terminates by the end of the year and Cascade Locks hires its own personnel.
“I don’t want the city to be a professional consulting service,” said council member Jeff Nicol of the proposed deal between the two cities. “Whether it’s police, fire, public works or anyone else, we’re not a body shop ... what makes sense to me is if there is a clear transition and I think three months can achieve that.”
City Manager Bob Francis presented the Hood River City Council with four possible options at its Monday meeting, the first two of which would have involved Cascade Locks contracting with Hood River for EMS services and the second two having Hood River help train EMS hires and wrapping up consulting services by the end of the year.
Devon Wells, Hood River’s fire chief, currently has a consulting contract with Cascade Locks for administrative services.
The Cascade Locks City Council followed through on its end of the bargain in a simultaneous meeting Monday night, directing Interim City administrator Paul Koch to negotiate a three-month extension to Wells’ contract and to begin the recruitment process for a station chief and a paramedic for Cascade Locks.
“We’ll be doing it as quickly as we can legally do that,” Koch said.
Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz said he discussed the situation with Cascade Locks Mayor Lance Masters and said he felt a three-month extension of Wells’ consulting contract to help Cascade Locks get through the hiring process should be enough to get the job done.
However, several members of the Hood River council expressed reservations about again extending Wells’ contract.
“We talked about this a few months back and we emphatically said then that this is it, and here we are talking about another extension,” said council member Ed Weathers.
Weathers and other members of the council briefly considered asking for language in the agreement which would make it clear that this was the final extension but eventually decided against it.
“In my opinion this is a good extension for the next three months,” said Francis. “Then at the beginning of the calendar year we are done and Cascade Locks has to come to the forefront and stop relying on Hood River to provide these services.”
Koch praised the work Wells has done in Cascade Locks so far, saying it has been invaluable in helping to get the fire department going again.
“Devon Wells has done an absolutely phenomenal job helping us rebuilding our department,” Koch said.
Several Hood River council members said they were all for helping out a neighbor in a time of need, but did not want to see the city manage the Cascade Locks department in a long-term role.
Wells said that the extension may not even need to go through the end of December depending on who Cascade Locks hires.
“We’re trying to get out of this thing and not see it collapse when we get out, and this seems like a good solid solution,” Babitz said.
Babitz did apologize to the council saying he did not realize the extent of the opposition to extending the contract.
The council eventually authorized an extension on the provision that Cascade Locks adopt an option which would see the consulting services end in December and Cascade Locks hiring its own EMT and/or paramedic.
Koch said that revenues to pay for the hires would come from the increased ambulance and fire protection fees which the Cascade Locks council approved earlier this year.
In other news from the city councils:
n The council approved an Oregon Parks and Recreation District Grant for the Waterfront Park. At its meeting two weeks prior the council approved a Parks and Recreation grant to repair the Tsuruta Tennis Courts. The council wanted two more weeks to review the grant approval paperwork before taking a vote.
n Approved an easement on the Walmart Country Club Road property so the city can install an emergency generator at the sewer lift station. The generator will be natural gas-powered and give the city a better contingency plan in the event of a power outage.
n Awarded the contract for improvements to Bluff Road to Crestline Construction for approximately $174,000.
n Reappointed Jennifer Gulizia and Steven Winkle to the planning commission.
n Heard a report from Francis on the possibility of forming a homelessness issues task force.
Francis raised the possibility of having two members of the city council and two members of the county commission on the task force to find solutions to issues such as food distribution and affordable housing.
n Authorized Koch to move forward with background checks for four candidates for the city administrator position.
Koch said he would be scheduling a meet-and-greet for mid-October to give the public a chance to meet the candidates.
Cascade Locks City Council — with input from those running for office — would then conduct final interviews.
Koch said a final decision would likely be made as soon as possible after the November election, with the new city administrator starting as soon as January.