Woodburn Fire Board considers local option levy
The Woodburn Fire District Board is considering referring a local option levy for the Nov. 6 ballot. The levy would allow the fire district to hire a full-time paramedic and maintain four full-time firefighters on duty at all times, according to Woodburn Fire Chief Joe Budge.
"Four-person constant staffing with advanced life support capabilities provides the best possible service to the communities we serve," Budge said.
If the levy fails, however, the district would likely have to lay off two full-time firefighters, Budge said.
The levy would add 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to the district's property tax rate for 5 years, from 2019 to 2024. If approved the levy would raise the fire district's total property tax rate to $2.14, including the $1.60 permanent rate and the 19-cent capital bond approved by voters in 2002.
Budge said the fire district currently faces significant challenges to providing consistent medical care when responding to calls, as ambulance service in Woodburn is limited.
"Often times there is a long ambulance response time, up to 20 minutes," Budge said.
Woodburn Fire District does not transport people suffering injuries or medical crises, and ambulance service in Woodburn, Mount Angel and Silverton is provided by a private company. When ambulance service in the region is busy, ambulances are requested from Marion County, and take longer to arrive. Having a full-time paramedic would allow the department to provide medical assistance immediately upon arriving, Budge said.
By bringing the number of on-duty firefighters up to four, the levy would also allow the district to respond to multiple emergencies at once and allow for more comprehensive responses to individual calls, according to Budge.
"It would allow multiple things to be done on arrival," Budge said.
In the case of a cardiac arrest, responding firefighters would be able to divide up tasks, with one person performing chest compressions, one performing breathing assistance, one applying IV lines and a heart monitor, and the fourth coordinating with the ambulance and hospital.
"It equates to more lives saved," Budge said.
The increase in full-time personnel would also allow multiple responses with volunteer firefighter assistance. In the case of multiple calls, three firefighters could be dispatched on an engine with two firefighters manning a second vehicle. Currently the district is often limited to three full-time firefighters on duty when personnel are out for vacation or sick leave. The department receives around 2,700 calls a year; at 2,500 calls a year, Budge said response reliability begins to drop as conflicting calls come in more often. The fire district receives multiple calls about 300 times a year.
The fire district board will vote on whether to approve the bond levy in its upcoming meeting Aug. 14.