Clark County Fire & Rescue pact ‘well-crafted’

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance

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Did you know ?

• Clark County Fire & Rescue serves Battle Ground, Ridgefield and La Center. It has seven stations and a boathouse.

Clark County Fire & Rescue commissioners and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3674 approved a contract last month that will help the department improve staffing levels and work with decreasing revenue.

The agreement will last through the end of 2014.

“We think it’s an extremely well-crafted contract,” said Chief Dennis Mason. “There’s a lot of good things in it for both the district and firefighters.”

The deal included no salary increases for union members in 2012 the third consecutive year without a raise for firefighters. After that, increases are tied to the district’s revenue if it goes up, firefighters get a raise. The minimum raise is 1 percent; if the district’s revenue goes up 2 percent, firefighters get a 2 percent raise, Mason said.

“We’ve never had that kind of an agreement before,” Mason said.

The district isn’t counting on any revenue increases in the near future.

“We’ve had some pretty significant revenue reductions for the last three years straight,” Mason said. “Things are getting better. It’s still a revenue loss for us.”

Union members are dedicated to serving the community, said Local 3674 President Travis Smith.

“With the number of people out of work, I think most of us feel fortunate to be employed,” he said, adding that union members are “steadfast on serving the citizens.”

The district’s 38 full-time firefighters also agreed to work one additional 24-hour shift a year. Shifts will be scheduled in advance and will save the department about $65,000, Mason said. That savings will be used to switch one part-time firefighter to a full-time position.

That was one of many concessions the union agreed to, Smith said.

IAFF Local 3647 also agreed to lower entry-level wages for new hires so the department can participate in a new Washington State Department of Labor and Industries apprentice program for firefighters. The program will pay $5,000 toward training new firefighters, which covers most of the tuition for a 13-week training program in North Bend, Mason said.