By PAT JENKINS The Dispatch A transition that began last year with shared administrative help is going further with the formal transfer of Eatonville's fire protection and emergency medical services to the control of South Pierce Fire and Rescue. The Town Council last week approved a five-year contract with the fire district in which the town will pay the district $400,000 for 2015 and 2016. This year's payment will be pro-rated. The amount of payments in 2017, 2018 and 2019 haven't been determined, officials ssaid. The agreement, which took effect Sept. 1, also calls for the layoff of the lone town-employed firefighter-paramedic. A fire department clerk will be given a job in another department. Mayor Mike Schaub last year replaced Eatonville's fire chief with Bob Vellias, the chief of South Pierce Fire, on a contract basis. That move was out of concern the town couldn't afford its fire department. Eatonville ended 2014 facing a $270,000 shortfall in public safety funding this year because a federal grant of $300,000 for the fire department expired at the end of 2014. Voters last year rejected the town's proposed one-year levy for public safety, but even if it had passed, a long-term solution to funding shortages for the fire department was needed, Schaub said. Schaub last year didn't rule out a larger role for South Pierce Fire in the town's fire protection services. But to start, Vellias was hired through the fire district on a $2,400-a-month contract. He retained his South Pierce duties while replacing the town's full-time fire chief, who had been receiving annual compensation of $92,000. The fire district's commissioners authorized the contract with the town on Aug. 17, a week before the council's action Aug. 24. The council's Publlic Safety Committee held preliminary discussions about a consolidation with South Pierce. Councilman James Schrimpsher, a committee member, reported to the council earlier in August that that putting fire and emergency medical services (EMS) under South Pierce's control is the right direction for the town. South Pierce will lease the town's fire and EMS equipment and will use the town's fire station. An annexation of the town into the fire district would require a public vote. In addition to saving money via a fire services consolidation, the town last year also entered into a contract with the Pierce County Sheriff Department for one of the department's lieutenants to serve as Eatonville's police chief. Schaub has said there is no plan for the town to receive all of its police services from the county as additional cost-savings for public safety. Along with the town, South Pierce Fire provides fire and EMS services to a combined population of more than 22,000 in an area that spans 138 square miles and includes Clear Lake, Ohop Lake, Lacamas, Roy,, McKenna, La Grande and Harts Lake. The district has seven fire stastions, 27 professional firefighters and 28 volunteers who answer about 2,000 calls per year. The district's firefighting equipment includes seven engines, two engine tenders, one tender, five utility vehicles, and two brush trucks.
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