7/28/2014

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Union Gap considers all options in providing fire protection services

Union Gap considers all options in providing fire protection services
UNION GAP, Wash. -- Union Gap city officials are looking to their neighbors for help in providing firefighting services.

Earlier this month the fire chief was terminated in a restructuring plan that combined fire and police under one department head. Now city officials are continuing with previous plans of creating a regional fire authority. Something that hasn't gotten popular support in the past.

Union Gap's city council agreed that as it stands now, the city doesn't have enough firefighters or resources to respond to all emergencies in the city.

"In delivering fire protection services now, we're heavily reliant on other jurisdictions to successfully provide the public safety that is the number one priority of a government," said Rod Otterness, Union Gap's city manager.

Already relying on other cities, Union Gap wants to look at other options of how to cover all their bases. Whether through cooperative purchasing agreements, contracting out services, or even privatizing services.

"It's a conversation that's occurring all across this country, when you're buying million dollar pieces of equipment it makes sense to have conversations with your neighbors before you do that," said Otterness.

With Yakima being the biggest neighbor, Otterness came to council asking for permission to start conversations with Yakima looking for possible agreements between the two city's fire departments.

In an effort to keep the scope as broad as possible, council changed the proposed ordinance to allow Otterness to speak with any neighboring city.

Some Union Gap community members weren't fond of the ideas. They said partnerships with Yakima have left Union Gap short changed before.

"One thing leads to another and it just doesn't work out well cause the people of Union Gap want nothing to do with like you said, Yakima," said one Union Gap community member.

This was shown through a previous survey when Union Gap residents voted against a Regional Fire Authority, as did Yakima's City Council last winter, as it would require a tax increase.

Yakima officials say they're open to conversations with Union Gap as this would be different than the Regional Fire Authority. It wouldn't affect taxes, and combining resources could benefit both cities.

Union Gap's council passed the ordinance with a 6-1 vote.
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