July 20, 2019 — Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue (SVFR) and Western Lane Ambulance District (WLAD) met in a joint session on Wednesday night in which they held the first of two public votes authorizing the creation of the “Western Lane Fire and EMS Authority” (WLFEA), as well as giving the oath of office to newly elected board members of SVFR and WLAD.
Official details were released on WLFEA, a new intergovernmental agency that will act as an administrative bridge between SVFR and WLAD. Since last year, both agencies have been working on creating a “third entity” that would employ key officers from both agencies and create a foundation to ensure operation cooperation.
“The concept is to give overall management to both districts,” WLAD Board President Rick Yecny said about the project in March. “Under the proposal, the third entity, which would be a non-taxing entity, would have two board members from each board sit on the committee. If there was ever a tie vote, the full boards would convene with all 10 board members to make a decision.”
The purpose of the agency will be to review the operations of fire protection, emergency response services and ambulance transportation in the two districts. The responsibilities laid out in the agreement have already been shared by SVFR and WLAD for quite some time, though the agreement officially codifies the practices.
Per the agreement, “The Contracting Parties hereby delegate to the Authority the power, duty and responsibility to maintain, operate, manage and control all fire and rescue and EMS activities, equipment, resources and all property of the Contracting Parties, including without limitation, the operation and management of all fire and ambulance stations, land, buildings and firefighting equipment, to employ or manage the necessary personnel and to do any and all other things necessary or desirable to provide continued efficient and economical Services to all persons and property within the combined territories of the Contracting Parties.”
WLFEA will have the power to make and enter into contracts for goods, services and related items. However, the power is limited. For example, if a contract is more than $10,000, approval will have to be obtained by both SVFR and WLAD, which will continue to remain separate taxing agencies with their own boards.
WLFEA will primarily employ administrative staff, including Office Manager Dina McClure, three administrative assistants and five coordinated services team members.
It would also officially have hiring and firing authority on Fire and EMS Chief Michael Schick, SVFR Operations Chief James Dickerson and WLAD Operations Chief Matt House.
The new agency would not collect additional tax dollars from the public, instead being funded by SVFR and WLAD.
“The Contracting Parties agree that, during the first year of the Authority’s existence, WLAD shall pay 51 percent of the Authority’s costs and SVFR shall pay 49 percent,” the agreement read. The one percent discrepancy exists because the WLFEA will be housed in SVFRs main building, located at 2625 Highway 101. The one percent will pay for the use of the copier, electricity and other administrative needs that will arise from the new organization.
SVFR and WLAD’s Intergovernmental Agreement Committee will meet publicly on Thursday, July 25, at 3 p.m. to prepare for the second reading of the ordinance, which is expected to have its final vote during the joining SVFR and WLAD Aug. 22 meeting.
A copy of the ordinance, and a full description of the agency, can be found at svfr.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/July-17-2019-Joint-Board-Meeting-Packet.pdf.
In other news from Wednesday night’s meeting, five newly elected board members were sworn into their positions.
For WLAD, incumbent Cindy Russell and new board member John Murphey were sworn in. The board voted unanimously to keep Rick Yecny as WLAD’s board president, and elected Larry Farnsworth as vice president.
“My plan is to serve this one more year, and hopefully we’ll continue to bring on new people to take the lead role,” Yecny said.
For SVFR, new board members Sam Spayd and James Palisi took the oath of office, as did Alan Burns, who took over for former board member Woody Woodbury earlier in the year.
“Thank you for all your years of service, it was very much appreciated,” Farnsworth told Woodbury, who was sitting in the audience.
“Thank you, I enjoyed it,” Woodbury said.
Ron Green nominated Ned Hickson to be the board president of SVFR, and the board unanimously voted in approval.
Hickson then nominated Greene for vice president, saying, “Ron’s done a great job, and I’ve learned a lot watching him. I’m extremely excited about this particular board, and the level of experience we have.”