Cascade Locks Fire on the mend, Charter School takes a twist

November 30, 2011

One issue cools while another looks ready to warm up in Cascade Locks.

The fire department is nearly back to normal operations, with 13 volunteers on the rolls, and another seven in training.

After several months of limited service, the ambulance is now able to provide basic life support nearly "24/7" and has the personnel to do advanced life support, depending on which volunteers are available, said acting chief Jess Zerfing.

"They're handling their calls very well," said Devon Wells, Hood River Fire Chief, who is serving as reorganization consultant.

City Council accepted a report on the reorganization of the fire and emergency services department in its meeting on Monday. A five-officer leadership team that shares the operations, maintenance and other tasks of the fire department is the heart of the report presented by Wells, who was hired this month to consult with the city on revitalizing the department.

He will work starting this week with Zerfing and interim city administrator Paul Koch to interview and appoint volunteers to the officer positions. Zerfing, appointed in August, said his particular role in the department is still to be decided.

Zerfing thanked Wells for his work and called it "a good, strong plan."

"I'm excited," he said. "We've got a great bunch of guys who are very motivated."

With the long-heated fire issue cooling, the council got its first word on a proposal to merge Cascade Locks School with neighboring Corbett School District. The council heard an impassioned argument by Cascade Locks Charter School Committee chair George Fischer and committee consultant Connie Kennedy Buttaccio on pursuing a petition to place the school within the Corbett District.

The council agreed by 6-0 consensus to support the effort. (Council Member Eva Zerfing was ill.)

The Charter committee has worked for several years with Hood River County School District to create a program in the Cascade Locks School, an effort that chairman George Fischer said had led nowhere.

"We kept hitting our head against the wall with them; and now we know it is never going to happen," said Fischer, making his first appearance at a council meeting since he was put out of office in October, along with three council members, following the Sept. 20 recall vote.

Fischer was the face of the Charter Committee long before he was elected mayor in November 2010.

The HRCSD decided in 2009 to close Cascade Locks High School and Middle School and turn the facility into a K-6 facility. That deprived parents of "right of choice" and "it left a huge hole in the community," Fischer said.

"The merger is the last chance we have as far as things go to give people in the community a choice again, as to where they want their children to go," Fischer said. "We need the ability to keep our children in this community."

Buttaccio called the idea a win-win for Cascade Locks, Corbett (which she said is overcrowded and could use an additional facility) and for HRCSD. She said the committee would need to acquire about 500 signatures of HRCSD residents and 140 from Corbett District to successfully gain permission to merge.

The Hood River News will examine the proposal, and the merger process, in the Dec. 3 edition.

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