HARRISBURG -- The Harrisburg Fire Department is hoping that the third time's the charm.
The department is asking voters to approve a $4.2 million bond measure in the May 20 election to build a new fire station. It's the third time in the past 12 years that the fire district has sought tax money to upgrade or replace its fire station.
If approved, the measure would increase property taxes by 88 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the next 20 years, beginning in November. Property owners within the district now pay $1.12 per $1,000 assessed valuation for regular fire district operations.
"We have equipment that we can't even store in our department any more because it's too small and we have nowhere to add on to," said Dan Rick, vice president of the Harrisburg Fire Association.
The department has three paid employees and 20 volunteers. Part of the need for a new station, Capt. Mike Hurd said, is the lack of sleeping quarters at the firehouse.
"With a new station we would be able to have up to four volunteers who would sleep here and be able to respond to nighttime calls," Hurd said. "It will have medically trained personnel at night plus our paid staff during the day, which helps to ensure that people can respond when they're needed."
Additionally, the new station would have showers -- something the current station at 500 Smith St. lacks.
"If we have fuel contamination or other things on us, pretty much we're stuck until we get home," Hurd said.
The new facility would add a commercial kitchen and more space for training, and be in compliance with modern building codes. The station would feature five double bays -- an increase from the current four. The department doesn't have enough parking bays and must park one of its vehicles outside.
The 16,565-square-foot proposed station would be more than double the size of the current 7,500-square-foot station.
Additionally, the current station, which was built in 1964, doesn't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, officials said. "The new station would be compliant with new building codes and should be much more liable to withstand an earthquake," Hurd said.
The proposed station would be constructed on approximately 3 acres of land at 1070 S. Sixth St., near Priceboro Road on the south edge of town. The department owns the property but leases it to Diamond Hill Paintball.
The department originally tried to raise $444,648 to remodel the station in November 2002. The bond measure received a majority of votes, but only 851 of the fire district's 1,903 registered voters actually voted, approximately 100 short of meeting the "double majority" requirements that were in effect at the time. Oregon law required that any property tax levy initiative receive a majority of votes, and have a turnout of 50 percent or more of all registered voters.
In November 2006, the department asked voters for funds to build a new station. The $2.1 million request -- which was for the exact same design and square footage as the station proposed now -- fell short by fewer than 100 votes.
Nothing about the current design, including the firm that designed it -- Deffenbaugh and Associates of Salem -- has changed. However, Oregon voters in 2008 passed a measure that removed the "double majority" requirement from general elections.
The construction price has doubled since 2006, fire officials say, because of inflation for construction materials and other building costs.
If the new bond measure passes, the department expects construction to begin between fall 2015 and fall 2016.
"It doesn't get any cheaper," Fire Chief John Goucher said.
No formal political action committee has formed in opposition to the bond measure, though Goucher said he's seen some "vote no" fliers posted around town.
The Harrisburg Fire Department responded to 489 calls for service last year.
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