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Fire board issues surface in Boring

The race for three seats on the board heats up at meeting

LES OTTOKEN BLOCKERJAY CROSSJOHN HARTSOCK Incumbent Boring Fire District Board Chairman Les Otto says the firefighters union is trying to get people elected who favor the union’s agenda, which is a completeTOM STEWART dissolution of Boring Fire and a merger with Clackamas Fire District No. 1.

If this is the case, it seems a difficult task. Only two of the six candidates for three board seats are union members, and one of them has promised to “not be a mouthpiece for the union.”

But one candidate, Ken Blocker, who has received financial assistance from the union for his campaign, is espousing an immediate merger with the Clackamas district.

Blocker did, however, join all the other candidates in his desire for a vote of taxpayers on the merger question.

In fact, that is the only point on which all candidates agreed during a mini debate at last week’s meeting of the Boring Community Planning Organization, moderated by CPO Chairman Steve Bates.

Bonded debt

One of the major contentions in the merger question, Otto said, is the amount of bonded indebtedness owed by Clackamas Fire.

“Boring doesn’t have any bonded indebtedness,” Otto said, “and we have paid for all of the facilities, apparatus and equipment.”

But Jay Cross says the Clackamas debt would be paid by 2015, and the merger process could take that long to accomplish, creating a merger of two districts — each without any debt.

Incumbent John Hartsock responded by saying that’s not a given.

“The Clackamas bond is likely to be renewed,” he said, “because some of the things they bought with that bond 10 years ago are needing to be replaced or there is additional work in the station.”

Blocker’s message was mainly the fact he wanted to see 24-7 coverage with the required minimum of at least three firefighters on duty at all times.

Service is important

Nearly all of the candidates spoke about service to the community, and several said Boring was already providing good service, something a merger wouldn’t likely improve.

“I work on the ambulance,” said candidate Tom Stewart, “and the response time is great in Boring. We’re pretty far out here, but we have good coverage. For medical responses, the only other place that gets an ambulance before Boring is Gladstone.”

Hartsock checked into the statistics of response times and was reassured that Boring’s are good.

Audit study

Several candidates mentioned a proposed study that Otto described before stating he would insist on seeing results of the study before even considering a merger.

“What the board has asked for,” he said, “is that we do a complete audit study of the Boring Fire District and Clackamas Fire District No. 1 to determine all of our financial resources (assets and liabilities).”

Then, he said, they would make a comparison of where Boring is going to be in the next five or 10 years.

“(The question is) can we continue to stand alone and sustain Boring Fire District as a complete and separate entity using partners within the surrounding districts to help cut costs and make it more efficient? Or do we have to move in a different direction?”

Stewart agreed with Otto and the current board on doing a study of both districts.

“I agree with (Otto) about being fiscally responsible,” he said, “There are a lot of promises being made about response time and they might be true, but they’re up for negotiation.”

Cross said he first stated he would vote for a complete merger of the two districts because he wants quick, complete coverage, knowing that a fire doubles every minute, and while two firefighters are waiting for the third person to show up so they can respond on a call, a fire is getting bigger.

“I agree with many of the things (Otto) said, with regard to the study,” Cross said.

Hartsock says he is holding out for the study’s results.

“With the study,” he said, “the real question is, where are we going to be in 10-15 years? Will we have the assessed value to continue to provide this level of service?”

Steve Kent might be a union member, but he is not automatically in favor of the union bosses’ views.

“For any change in taxes or merger or joint venture, we have to see a savings,” he said, “and we have to go to a vote of the people. A majority of the public has to say they accept (the proposal).”

But behind the election, there is the constant pressure of what Otto called the union’s agenda. He says he isn’t about to be influenced by anything besides proven facts.

“This election is not about me or the other candidates; they’re all fine people,” Otto said. “This election is about a union agenda that says ‘merge now.’ They’re selling you a bill of goods that says you’ll get better service for the same cost. But they’re not telling you the whole story.”

There are only six days for the whole story to be revealed. Ballots are due in the county elections office by 8 p.m. next Tuesday.

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