Oregon: Committee favors hiring 3 firefighters

Larry Limpf

News Editor

After meeting for almost 1 ½ hours Monday, Oregon city council’s safety committee agreed to recommend the administration start the process for hiring three firefighters this year.
The recommendation comes after council rejected a proposal last month to place an income tax increase request on the November ballot that, if it passed, would have been used to help fund the police and fire departments, including hiring an additional 12 full-time firefighters.
Council voted 5-2 to not place the issue on the ballot. It would have raised the income tax rate from 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent.
“There were people on council who didn’t think raising the income tax was a good idea,” said Kathy Pollauf, who chairs the committee. “Instead of just letting it go, we need to give the fire department adequate staffing if we’re not going to try to secure a levy. We still have to make sure we’re staffed properly for the safety of Oregon. We’re going to watch and see what the budget looks like for next year. We’ll see what our spending is between now and the end of the year. We’ll try and make it to where we can hire more in the future. But right now, we’re hiring just three.”

Grant application pending
Fire Chief Clayton O’Brien informed the committee his department expects to be notified by September whether or not it will be awarded a grant through the federal Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response program. SAFER grants are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support firefighter hiring, recruitment and retention.
He described the SAFER grant program as “ultra competitive.” It would fund the new hires for three years.
Also, the American Rescue Plan Act funding program is nearing its final stage, Pollauf said, adding the city received about $500,000 this year through ARPA.
Nick Roman, finance director, said hiring three firefighters would be borne by the city’s reserve fund balance.
For the rest of this year that would be approximately $220,000 to $250,000, he said, and for 2025 it would be $450,000 to $500,000.
“Around October I’d say we’ll have a good idea of where we’ll end the year,” Roman said.
Councilman Paul Drake said he would prefer to fund new hires with a revenue stream specifically for that purpose rather than the general fund.
“I can’t see hiring these positions without a dedicated revenue. It’s going to affect other general fund departments,” he said. “You create these positions without revenue what happens? What happens when the revenue is tapped there?”
In 2023, the city fire department responded to 2,829 calls for Emergency Medical Service and 689 fire calls, according to the department web site.


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