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Camas considers raising fire impact fees

City council will hold public hearing on possible increase to ease future strain on fire department

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The Camas City Council has signaled its willingness to increase the city’s fire impact fees developers pay to help cover residential and nonresidential developments’ future strain on the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.

Although the council is leaning toward bonds to fund the replacement of two fire stations — Station 41 in downtown Camas and Station 43 in Washougal — fire officials and consultants have also said the department has critical fire apparatus needs that could be partially funded by impact fees placed on new development.

“Our fire department apparatus is failing,” Camas-Washougal Fire Department Fire Marshal Ron Schumacher told the council in April, adding that, with the council’s adoption of the fire department’s 20-year capital facilities plan — something the council approved in April and again last week — “fire impact fees would become available to replace our aging fleet.”

On Nov. 7, the majority of the council indicated support for a unified fee between the cities of Camas and Washougal and increasing the impact fees, which would take effect in 2024.

Camas’ current fee structure — 20 cents per square foot for new residential developments and 40 cents per square foot for new, nonresidential developments — would increase to 68 cents per square foot for single-family residential developments, 37 cents per square foot for multi-family residential developments and 88 cents per square foot for all other developments, including commercial and industrial buildings, as well as assisted-living centers, which have more service calls to the Camas-Washougal Fire Department than other developments.

If approved, the fee structure would bump fire impact fees for a new 2,530-square-foot home in Camas from $506 to $1,720, and increase fees for a new, 50,000-square-foot industrial development from $20,000 to $44,000.

Despite more than doubling its population since 2000, the city of Camas has not approved a fire impact fee increase in nearly 20 years.

Last week, Councilman Greg Anderson said he supported the impact fee increase on new development to help fund increased service demands on the fire department.

Consultants said last week that out of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department’s $35.1 million in total capital needs, $22.7 million — including the $4.4 million the department needs to purchase four new fire engines, a ladder truck capable of reaching taller structures, four rescue tools and two brush fire rigs — can be funded by impact fees.

Councilman Don Chaney questioned the inclusion of a $1.1 million ladder truck in the fire department’s list of capital facilities needs. Camas-Washougal Fire Department Fire Chief Cliff Free explained that when the consultants conducted the capital needs assessment, they were projecting out 20 years.

The council will hold a public hearing to discuss the proposed fire impact fee increases during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at Camas City Hall. The meeting also will be livestreamed and available to the public via Zoom. For more information, visit cityofcamas.us/meetings.

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