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Boring backs out of joint fire prevention

But fire district likely to hire two people for new positions

Boring Fire and Rescue has opted out of a program it has shared with Sandy Fire and Rescue for at least 12 years.

Boring Fire Chief Doug Branch says his district wasn't getting its money's worth in the way the program has changed over the years.

The former Joint Fire Prevention Division has been staffed for many of those years partly by Alice Busch, who is now out of a job in Boring. Sandy Fire, however, has kept her on the payroll part-time in a similar role.

'This was a business decision,' Branch said. 'We looked at the bottom line and what we were getting for what we were paying, and we feel we can do the same thing or better for the same price. This (decision) is nothing against (Busch); it wasn't a performance issue.'

Busch has been involved in activities such as fire prevention, public safety and information, emergency management and public education - in Sandy, Boring and Damascus and other small communities protected by the two fire districts.

Also serving in that joint program were part-time Fire Marshal Don Patty and full-time Fire Prevention Officer Pat Bigelow, both at Boring.

The program allowed all three to serve both fire districts, and for the two districts to pay equal shares of their salaries, expenses and benefits.

'Theoretically, it was to be a 50-50 split (on program costs),' Branch said. 'But Sandy has a larger role in emergency management and some other things they have (Busch) doing.

'It seemed like (Busch's) duties were increasing in Sandy, and we felt it was in our best interests (to back out of the program). We thought we could provide the same level, if not a better level, of service for the same cost.'

A fire marshal works with architects, contractors and city planners, reviewing building plans for fire and life safety issues such as the new high school in Sandy. A fire marshal also reviews plans for construction in the county, working with county planners and contractors.

Bigelow has the same certifications as Patty, who works half-time, but Bigelow has other duties added to his full-time work list - including emergency management for Boring and Damascus.

A transition period is planned during the summer and early fall, when some of the same fire prevention duties will be shared by both districts.

Patty has announced his retirement, beginning at the end of December, and the Boring district is still planning how to fill that position.

In early discussions about ending the Joint Fire Prevention Program, Branch wanted to make the change at the end of the calendar year - due to Patty's retirement at that time - but Sandy Fire Chief Gary McQueen preferred making the change at the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1.

So the change was made July 1, when Busch was approved only for up to 24 hours at Sandy, and the Boring fire marshal will help Sandy for a few months.

Branch said the change at Boring would be to have a full-time fire marshal after Patty retires.

Another person is to be hired at Boring, likely by the end of September, to pick up the public information and education duties (what Busch had been doing), but the new person is to be hired full-time and is expected to take on support roles where needed around the department.

'(The new hire) will have a lot more time to dedicate to the Boring Fire District (compared to Busch),' Branch said, 'and we hope to have a higher level of customer service. We're also trying to build some redundancy in the organization that we lack right now.'