Fire district bond on the ballot
Woodburn Fire District announced details of an upcoming bond going before district voters on the May 18 ballot.
Voters will consider a 20-year bond for capital expenses that, if passed, would go into effect in 2022 after the current bond expires.
District officials said the bond would raise about $12.7 million for capital expenditures that include emergency response vehicles, district facilities and a variety of lifesaving equipment, including thermal imagers, breathing apparatus and carbon monitors.
Bond revenue also would continue funding long-term capital expenses just as the current bond has been since it took effect in 2003.
WFD officials stressed that this would allow the district to retain all firefighter-medics who provide emergency medical and fire response for 39,000 people who reside within the 75 square miles served by the district. As per Oregon tax law, bond funds can only be used for equipment and facility expenses that have at least a 10-year lifespan.
Officials also said that the maintenance of current response capability and improvements made possible with bond funds are expected to improve the fire district's insurance rating, which they estimate would save residential property owners about half the total annual cost of the bond.
What do bond funds furnish?
Most bond revenue would be used to replace aging emergency vehicles responding from the district's four fire stations. Fire engines, trucks, tenders and support vehicles last 30 to 40 years, so vehicle replacements in the 20-year bond projections include:
• Three fire/paramedic engines, a ladder truck, three water tenders, which haul water to fires where there are no hydrants, and a mobile air compressor vehicle for refilling breathing apparatus used by firefighters working in hazardous environments;
• A medical rescue vehicle to provide faster patient transport to hospitals in high-call situations when out-of-district ambulances with longer travel times must be used;
• One brushfire truck for more rapid access to wildland fire locations in the rural areas of the district. The brush vehicle also will have the capability to provide backup medical response when necessary.
Emergency response equipment
Fire districts have ongoing needs to replace obsolete equipment used in emergencies. WFD officials estimate that about 20% of the bond funds would be used to update emergency medical equipment, including cardiac monitors and chest compression systems that substantially improve patient survival rates.
Bond funds also will allow the district to replace out-of-date thermal imagers and breathing apparatus (SCBAs) used by firefighter-medics to enter burning structures to extinguish fire.
Some equipment expenses forecast over the next 20 years include: emergency communication radios; self-contained breathing apparatus; cardiac heart monitors/defibrillators; firefighter personal protective equipment; vehicle and machinery extrication equipment.
Gervais fire station
Bond designers estimate 4.5% of the funds would serve to improve emergency-response in the Gervais area by reestablishing a fire station to be jointly funded and used by the fire district and the city of Gervais.
Gervais joined the Woodburn Fire District in 1986. The fire district operated Station 23 in Gervais until 2007 when it was closed due to the lack of available volunteer firefighters.
WFD plans to use current college student volunteer firefighters who would live at the station to supplement the emergency response from other volunteer firefighters in the community, backed up by career firefighters responding from Woodburn.
Facilities maintenance and training center
Almost 20% of the bond proceeds would be allocated for fire district facilities over the 20-year term including:
• Reroofing of the Waconda and Broadacres fire stations;
• Stabilization of failing concrete block security wall at the district's main station;
• Repaving projects at the district's main station on Newberg Highway and the James Street station;
• Training center development;
• Facility interior updates at 25-year intervals.
About 10% of the facilities money would be invested in a fire-district training center. Currently the district doesn't have a dedicated firefighter training area. District officials said a training facility is vital for developing and maintaining firefighting skills. It also impacts the district's Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating. WFD currently has an ISO rating of 3 on a scale of 1-10; 1 is the best rating.
Maintenance of current firefighter-medic staffing levels and the addition of the proposed Gervais fire station and training facility, would likely raise the rating, resulting in an estimated 5% savings in the cost of fire insurance premiums for property owners. The savings is expected to offset about half of the total annual cost of the bond for residential property owners.
How much is the bond?
WFD is funded by property taxes. As per directive from the fire district board of directors, the proposed replacement bond would have the same initial tax rate that the current bond began with in 2003.
The replacement bond is estimated to be 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. As with the current bond, the rate is expected to decline somewhat over the bond's 20-year lifespan. Resetting the bond to the 2003 rate will increase the monthly bond cost about 60 cents a month for a total of $7 per year for the typical residential property.
The bond's approval would allow funding of the capital expenses from revenue that is outside of the funds needed for firefighter-medics and daily fire district operations. It would allow the current staffing levels to be maintained and additional firefighter-medics added over the next 20 years with no additional taxes as the population of the 75 square miles served by the fire district continues to grow.
If not approved?
If the bond is not approved, critical equipment and facility expenditures would require the use of operating funds that would otherwise be used to retain firefighter-medics who provide emergency medical and fire response throughout the growing fire district.
The information in this document has been provided by Fire Chief Joe Budge. Any district resident with questions about the bond is encouraged to contact Budge at 503-982-2360 or visit the district website at woodburnfire.com.
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