NEW FIRE DISTRICT CRISIS
Just about a year ago, Waldport citizens were told that our fire district was in crisis, lacking funds to pay more than one firefighter, lacking a fire chief, lacking volunteers to keep up the medical, fire, auto accident and welfare responses the people of the district need and are entitled to. We were told that an additional tax levy of $1.27 per $1000 assessed property value was absolutely necessary to provide adequate services. That levy passed by a very slim margin – less than 20 votes. The Central Oregon Coast Fire and Rescue District now has over $750,000 per year for operating expenses.
What was not made clear to the citizens at the time the levy was proposed was:
1) The Fire Board had hired and fired – or bought out –three fire chiefs in less than 4 years, had hired, trained, then fired 4 firefighters in the last year, had sold the District’s ambulances and allowed a private ambulance service to assume medical responses and transport duties.
2) The Fire Board had allowed the Tidewater Fire Station, leased to the district for pennies per month on the condition that it be maintained and manned, to fall into deplorable physical condition and left unmanned. This negligence causes the people in the Tidewater area to pay increased property taxes. It also creates a very real risk of emergency response to that area being delayed or impossible. Anything that blocks Highway 34 – slide, accident, physical damage to the road itself, etc – can result in a hazard to those citizens depending on the Waldport station to provide protection.
3) The Fire Board had alienated even the most dedicated volunteers, causing most of the volunteers to withdraw.
The actions of the Fire Board resulted in a staff of ONE paid firefighter/paramedic and very few volunteers, making COCFRD the laughing stock of the county fire districts, forced to depend on our neighboring fire districts, mainly Yachats and Seal Rock, to protect the people of our fire district.
The people of Waldport, who bear the most responsibility for the increased taxes, were enraged by the actions of the Fire Board. Town hall meetings were filled with irate citizens casting blame for the mismanagement and accusations of misconduct, resulting in the resignation of the board chairman. With no money to hire firefighters, much less a fire chief, we were assigned interim fire chiefs to meet the minimum requirements of maintaining our fire district. The two successive interim chiefs provided some awesome support and leadership, defining goals and standards for the future of COCFRD and bringing back many of the former volunteers and some new ones. A new fire chief, Gary Woodson, has been hired, and has shown fantastic enthusiasm and ability to build a great fire department.
The public outcry fell silent as the district limped along until the money from the new levy became available.
The coming election in May will include election of 4 board positions due to term expirations and one position due to the tragic death of Jiah Quayle.
The crisis is that all the present board members are running for re-election! Do we really want to turn over the management of our fire district and the three quarters of a million dollar income to the same board members who bankrupted and virtually destroyed the fire district before??
For the first time in many years, there are candidates for the 4 incumbent positions. Meet them here:
PAM PITTS A strong voice of reason from Tidewater with proven management skills and a strong desire to build an exceptional fire district. Pam has been a member of the Citizens Advisory Group for the COCFRD since its inception and has a firm commitment to rebuilding our fire district.
JULIE BECKER A retired EMT, she also was a qualified EMT instructor, was president of the Volunteer Assoc. for COCFRD, Public Information officer for the fire district and a lifelong resident of Waldport. Julie has the background in fund raising/grant writing that will be crucial to the district’s future.
KEITH MARQUAND With close to 40 years in the firefighting field as a volunteer and a paid firefighter, Keith is presently a paid part-time Firefighter/ EMT2 in Yachats. He has called Waldport home since 1994. He has business management skills as a business owner and a strong desire to build a well trained, efficient fire district.
ERIC STAFFORD With almost 20 years of fire experience, both volunteer and paid, and a 911 dispatcher, Eric has been a Firefighter/Paramedic for 12 years, currently with the Yachats Rural Fire Protection District. He holds a three year degree in Emergency Management and has owned a construction business and is a qualified blacksmith/farrier. He has the education, experience and the desire to help rebuild COCFRD.
These candidates are well qualified and determined to lead the district to a future of financial stability, dependable community services with well trained personnel, well maintained facilities and equipment. Talk to your neighbors, get them as “fired up” about this election as they were in criticizing and condemning the current board. We need better leadership. You need to vote!