Camas, WA — The Camas City Council unanimously (absent Councilor Bonnie Carter) approved a $195 million biennial budget Monday night that includes funds for five new firefighters.
The meeting was a stark contrast from the previous council session that had councilors deadlocked about firefighter funding. In question was the Washougal funding for their portion of the fire services, which is 40 percent. Washougal hasn’t committed to their portion.
“Congratulations. That was a little easier this time,” said Camas Mayor Shannon Turk following the official vote.
The new budget increases funding for salaries and benefits for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department (CWFD) and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) by $663,988 in 2019, and by an additional $273,518 in 2020. The budget includes money for four new firefighters, a new fire marshal, as well as a new vehicle.
“The new vehicle is a one-time expense,” said city administrator, Pete Capell.
As Camas accounts for 60 percent of the funding for CWFD and EMS, several councilors expressed dismay at the reality that Washougal isn’t footing their part of the bill. They were previously hesitant to absorb the total cost.
The local firefighters union has pressed the council for most of 2018 for more personnel to “adequately serve Camas,” said firefighter, Josh Proctor.
City Councilwoman Deanna Rusch has always expressed support for the new personnel, and Capell has said because of increased city revenues “this is a good time to expand city services to meet our growing demands.”
He said staffing has been mostly stagnant for many years.
Washougal is willing to pay for their share of the new firefighter’s expenses, but they simply don’t have the funds.
Following passage of the 2019-20 budget, CWFD Fire Captain Kevin West addressed the council.
“I wanted to thank you for recognizing the need for firefighters,” West said.
Camas citizens are likely going to be very happy about the decision, given public input on the issue.