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Dundee fire considers joining WCCCA service

Shift could put Newberg dispatch center in a good staffing position for call volume, police chief says

In less than two months the Newberg Fire Department will merge into Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue as a two-year contract period begins, but it’s still unclear what that means for Dundee Fire Department dispatch service.

The TVF&R-Newberg contract stipulates all agreements between the NFD and nearby fire departments will continue to be honored. But with the Newberg fire facility switching from essentially an in-house dispatch service to using the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA) system, some questions arise for the Dundee department.

It could continue with its existing dispatch model, which has emergency calls handled at the Newberg-Dundee dispatch center in Newberg, or it could switch over to a new model where dispatch would transfer calls to a WCCCA center, like the Newberg fire service will use.

“We are entertaining the thought,” Dundee Fire Chief John Stock said. An intergovernmental agreement is being drafted to show how dispatch would work under a Dundee WCCCA model.

Having both departments on the same dispatch system would allow the smoothest interfacing, but one of the considerations for the Dundee department is how a new dispatch system would mesh with its volunteer firefighters.

“We’re accustomed to a certain way to get our volunteers here,” Stock said, noting that a lot of the volunteer Dundee firefighters use voice pagers, which the Washington County system does not use.

Some technical experts have come out to consult on the dispatch possibilities, and Stock anticipated a plan would be in place before the July 1 contract date.

“We’re looking at options,” he said.

Newberg fire operations will be answered by the Newberg dispatch center and then transferred over to WCCCA for actual dispatch, which means a significant decrease in call activity at the local dispatch center. If Dundee were to join WCCCA as well it would mean the center only handles police calls locally.

“It’ll be less call volume for us, not taking their calls, and that’ll be the primary impact,” Newberg-Dundee Police Chief Brian Casey said. “It’s going to help with our staffing levels at the dispatch center. Where we’re at staffing wise, just doing police (we) would probably be at the right level.”

There are about 10 staff positions at the dispatch center, and between the length of time it takes to train communications officers and the rising call volumes in recent years, the center has at times been overworked.

“This would kind of balance things out,” Casey said.

Meanwhile, Newberg Fire Chief Les Hallman updated the City Council this month, explaining that the transition to TVF&R service is going “extremely well.” He brought up some training activities that are increasing as the contract date approaches.

“Basically our firefighters will be training to their protocols and standards,” Hallman said. Some of that training is taking place at a TVF&R facility near Sherwood and some will be in Newberg. That means there will be more TVF&R vehicles active in Newberg even before the July 1 beginning of the contract.

Hallman’s update to the council, which all department heads give on a regular basis, may be his last: although he will remain on with the department, it will become part of TVF&R’s Southern Division led by TVF&R Division Chief Brian Sherrard.

Sherrard, a Newberg resident, would likely report to the council on the department’s activities.