The Hermiston Fire and Emergency Services District has experienced its share of turnover in 2008.

Since May, the department has replaced its chief and assistant chief and hired a new captain, two lieutenants and two firefighters - but the HFESD continues to operate relatively smoothly through the transitions, said Chief Pat Hart, who addressed the Hermiston City Council during a work session Monday night.

"We've had some significant changes in the department ... all in the last six months or so," Hart said, adding some - including himself - are still learning their new roles and getting to know one another.

"That's going to be a continual process," he said.

Hart took over as chief May 1, following the retirement of 20-year chief Jim Stearns. Two months later, Assistant Chief Scott Stanton stepped into Steve Frazier's role, who also retired from his post after 20 years there.

Both Stearns and Frazier logged more than 30 years of service to the Hermiston department, Hart said.

2008 has also given Hermiston firefighters a heavy workload, Hart said. Through the end of October, the department had responded to 2,280 medical calls and seen 415 fire responses - both on pace to surpass 2007 totals by the end of the year. Hart said emergency medical service activity has more than doubled since 1996 in Hermiston. He attributed at least some of that jump to a growing community.

"Ambulance calls are just going up and up and up all the time," Hart said. "And as the population continues to go up, that's going to continue."

During the council's regular meeting, which lasted nine minutes, the council approved October city expenditures of $1,663,927.02.

Mayor Bob Severson also commended the Hermiston community for passing the school district's $69.9 million bond measure last week. City Manager Ed Brookshier noted the city will contribute $150,000 toward implementing the bond projects, a move approved by the council in April on the condition that the bond passed.

The Good Shepherd Community Health Foundation plans to contribute $200,000 of its own through a similar agreement.

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