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Knappa asks voters to fund fire equipment

Fire district needs new fire engine and water tender

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Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012 11:09 am | Updated: 1:21 pm, Mon Oct 29, 2012.

KNAPPA — The Knappa-Svensen-Burnside Rural Fire Protection District is once again looking to replace two antiquated pieces of its firefighting apparatus through a public measure, this time on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Measure 4-158 asks voters in the district to pay $695,000 in additional property taxes to finance a new fire engine and water tender.

“The fire engine that we want to replace is 30 years old, and the pump failed in 2011,” said Knappa Fire Chief Paul Olheiser. “The water tender is 35 years old, and the tank is rusting.

“Never is a good time to get more taxes,” he added. “The economy is what it is; and unfortunately, the fire apparatus is what it is as well.”

Bonds would mature in 10 1/2 years or less from issuance and be issued in one or more series. The estimated average annual cost of this measure, if issued as a 7 1/2-year bond, would be .57 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a home assessed at $150,000 with a growth rate of 2.5 percent per year is estimated to pay $96.77 a year for such a bond.

The fire protection district unsuccessfully tried to get an identical measure – Measure 4-157 – passed in May’s election to buy the same two vehicles.

“The information we got when we talked to the community is that we didn’t put out enough information,” said Don Bartlett, president of the fire district’s board, when asked about about the failure of last May’s measure. “The board feels it’s pretty important for the fire district to have this equipment.

“We probably average between $25,000 and $30,000 in the water tender and the fire engine. If we put the money in them, we still have a 30-year-old vehicle that’s prone to other mechanical problems.”

Olheiser said that refurbishing the two existing vehicles – they must both meet the standards of the National Fire Protection Association – would cost two-thirds as much as buying new variants.

The district covers approximately 100 square miles in north Clatsop County using three fire stations, each with a fire engine. Olheiser said the district has looked at the possibility of shutting down an engine and closing a station to reduce overhead costs, but that it would affect response times too much.

“We’re not getting much feedback from the community,” said Bartlett about possible alternatives from constituents. “We’d like to have feedback, but it’s just not happening. Money of course is tight, but we’re hoping we can save district money by replacing equipment now.”

Olheiser said the district tries to use its own budget to purchase smaller items, but that acquiring large firefighting vehicles is too expensive to do in-budget. It has secured grants for jaws of life, protective clothing, air packs, rescue vehicles, brush vehicles and wildland equipment.

“We apply for grants all the time,” said Olheiser. “Unfortunately, we have not been successful with vehicle grants.

“In May, when we were trying to pass the bond measure ... the engine was about $300,000 and the water tender was $275,000.”

He said that if the district shut down an engine and a station, the additional insurance cost to building owners around that station would add up to more than they would pay on taxes for the new equipment.

In 2006, the fire protection district passed a five-year bond measure for $290,000 to purchase a new fire engine. In 1996, it passed a 10-year, $224,000-bond measure for another fire engine.

“The only thing that we’ve raised taxes for in the 21 years I’ve been here is the two engines we’ve sold bonds on,” said Olheiser. “Everything else we’ve replaced through the budget.”

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