Airport agreement ends with firefighters laid off

NORTH BEND, Ore. -- The 15-year partnership for fire service between the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport and the City of North Bend has come to an end.

The two sides sent proposals back and forth for about a year, but could not reach an agreement.

In the end, the city had to lay off two firefighters.

Terence O'Conner, the city administrator, says it came down to a business decision. "As a result of the business decision the airport district made, the city had to make a business decision," O'Conner said.

The two positions terminated were initially created strictly to provide airport support, which is now being handled by airport personnel.

Mike Lehman, an airport board commissioner, says they are able to do everything they are required to. "We got all the people trained to meet all federal standards, the actual fire fighting service," Lehman said. "You know if there is a fire at the airport that is still provided by North Bend."

O'Conner says he has no doubt the airport personnel have been trained to federal standards, but he says you can't beat experience. "They know how to respond instinctively, it's their profession, they are professional firefighters," said O'Conner.

Lehman says people are not in any danger with the new arrangement. "We would not have done this if it put people using our airport at risk."

The city says they are currently working on getting a grant, which would open up the two positions they had to terminate when the agreement ended.