After 7 years at the helm of the Central Coast Fire District, Chief Derrick Clawson has been let go and an interim fire chief appointed – Dennis Cannon. Cannon has been with the department a number of years and is originally from Idaho.
Central Coast District Fire Board member Ray Woodruff said that a difference in a vision for a new direction for the department caused the separation. Woodruff thanked Clawson for his seven years of service as chief to the department and to the community.
In the meantime Woodruff says that the Central Coast Fire District Board is still focused on ways to reorganize fire fighting services in Lincoln County. A recent comprehensive county wide study revealed substantial long-term cost savings through consolidation of certain fire services as well as more effective ways to spend taxpayer dollars to get more services for their money. Woodruff says Central Coast will be pursuing the idea of inter-district cooperation between fire departments which could eventually produce a county-wide fire district. Such a move would flatten the administrative christmas tree to something more affordable and far more effective than having seven fire departments serving just 45,000 residents. Woodruff said there is a spot in Waldport where three different fire department boundaries are within a quarter mile of each other. A recent effort at consolidating certain services between fire departments to reduce costs was shot down by the Newport City Council. But councilors said that they would be willing to reconsider the issue if more attention is paid to specifics and in getting Newport firefighters on board with it.
Law enforcement has also had long term, but highly informal discussions about consolidating police services. Under a consolidated county sheriff system, the administrative structure would collapse into fewer higher cost administration thereby creating substantial savings, which, in turn, could put more law enforcement officers on the street. It’s widely agreed that law enforcement in Lincoln County is stretched very thin which can dramatically lengthen emergency response times even when Oregon State Police are included in the mix. The situation is also aggravated by the fact that Lincoln County is relatively low income, thereby producing lower tax revenue per resident.
Also, over the last ten years, technological advancements have reduced the need for labor in many areas of law enforcement, including information handling. The recent consolidation of 9-1-1 dispatch services between the county, Depoe Bay, Newport, Seal Rock, Waldport and Yachats is a sign that emergency services consolidation is here to stay. All Lincoln County law enforcement (except OSP) uses the same computer-aided dispatch system in their patrol cars. Lincoln County Sheriff, Lincoln City, Newport and Toledo police departments all have the same system in their cars run by Willamette Valley Communications System (WVCC) which dispatches the whole county, except for Lincoln City and Toledo. Lincoln City is still considering joining WVCC for 9-1-1 dispatch services due to hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential savings to the city. Running one’s own dispatch center is very expensive. The city of Toledo still appears to be committed to going it alone but it too is under revenue pressures that may one day force a reconsideration of their current stance.