Long time Chairman of the Central Oregon Coast Fire Protection District Ray Woodruff has spared his board and the district the expense of conducting a re-call election against his continued service on the board. Woodruff notified the district that he would resign before his term is up preferring not to put the voters or the district through a divisive exercise. Woodruff’s resignation was effective this week.
The main issue involved dramatic action taken by the fire board recently, at the urging of Woodruff, to sell the district’s ambulances to Pacific West Ambulance, a private corporation and turn emergency medical services over to them. That move irked a lot of district taxpayers who said the public was kept in the dark about the decision and that the deed was done before anyone knew about it. On the other hand, Woodruff maintained that the fire district board meetings are open to the public and there was plenty of talk around town about the district’s dire financial troubles.
So when a serious traffic crash occurs or other emergencies arise, PacWest ambulances will continue to head to the scene right behind the fire engines. Central Coast Fire engines will remain staffed with lower level emergency medical response capabilities with EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technicians) who can keep things together until PacWest gets on scene usually within a few minutes in instances where they might be preoccupied on another call.
The fire district recently managed to get a higher tax rate approved by the voters to help prop up the financially struggling department. The election was a real squeaker – but the measure passed, barely. The extra revenue will pull the district out of its financial hole. It’s old tax rate, passed years ago, just wasn’t keeping up with the cost of firefighting supplies, turn-out gear, firefighter training and firefighting apparatus.
Recall activist Peter Carlich told News Lincoln County that he and others want the fire district to re-establish its own ambulance service but added that the specifics will come only after a careful evaluation of the fire district’s budget. He said he and his citizen group wants to see how the money they already have on hand is being spent, then adding in the new revenue approved by the voters at the last election.
Carlich also mentioned that maybe it’s time to take a 50,000 foot perspective on the future of the fire district, that is, should the district begin discussions about combining Yachats, Central Coast and Seal Rock fire departments into a single district. He said it might more effectively pool department resources and “scale up” the benefits to area residents and businesses. Carlich said the idea is just starting to emerge as a talking point for ideas to improve services using a wider geographical tax base to make the heavy lifting possibly a bit easier for area taxpayers while improving service levels.
Carlich says there are now two vacancies on the board – the one left by the departing Ray Woodruff but also the seat held by Jerry Phillips. Phillips resigned at the same time as Woodruff.
Carlich said the fire board should consider redirecting fire, medical and rescue services in a more cost effective manner. He said the community is demanding it. He said it’s also demanding more transparency and accountability in the way the district spends its money as it provides its vital services. Carlich told the board that there will be much dialog and deep discussions among the community on a new direction for district.
As for whether he, himself is considering applying for a seat on the fire board Carlich said, “I’ve thought about it but I haven’t yet made up my mind.”