Five years after Camas leaders first expressed a desire to add more firefighters to the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, Washougal officials say they are still searching for a way to fully fund their share of the new positions.
They are cautiously optimistic that the search is nearing an end.
The city of Washougal’s proposed 2024 budget includes $5.2 million for fire services, a 16 percent increase from 2023. Washougal City Manager David Scott told The Post-Record the city has been working with Camas “to determine a sustainable path for the future.”
Washougal’s 2024 budget includes investments in the city’s new strategic initiatives manager and community engagement program coordinator positions; mandated improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant; design and permitting for the new 32nd Street underpass project; design, permitting and construction of the city’s Town Center civic campus project; and mandated updates to the city’s comprehensive land use plan and related capital facilities plans.
The need to fund more firefighters — and find the means to bring new firefighters on board — has been a point of contention between city officials in Camas and Washougal since 2018.
Consultants told officials from both cities in 2022 that they should consider forming a regional fire authority instead of working to correct the many “gaps” in the current agreement and called a 10-year interlocal cost-sharing agreement in effect now “unsustainable.”
Officials from Camas and Washougal have discussed the possible formation of an regional fire authority, which would require voter approval, during ongoing meetings of the Camas Washougal Fire Department’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee.
Several Washougal council members, including Mayor David Stuebe and Molly Coston, have publicly voiced their preference for the fire authority over the current interlocal agreement.
“(This is) a huge issue,” said Coston. “We’ve been working on it for a couple of years, and it is a huge challenge for us, and Camas as well, because costs escalate every year, much more than our revenue escalates. We’re going to have to find some strategies to mitigate that and find ways to continue that relationship.”
Washougal City Council members will discuss the proposed 2024 budget, including the fire department funds, during their meeting on Monday.