(Update: Adding video, comments from Jefferson County Fire and EMS)
MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Jefferson County Fire & EMS is proposing a $14.5 million bond for the May ballot. The agency's Board of Directors is scheduled to vote Feb. 22 at 4:30 p.m. on a resolution to ask voters to consider the capital bond request.
"I know what we need, because I've been part of this organization since 2005, and I just have seen what we've done and where we've been, and now we're where we're at," Deputy Chief of Operations Kasey Skaar said Monday.
Fire officials say the bond measure would fund a variety of equipment, fire apparatus and facility upgrades. They are intended to protect first responder health and safety, ensure continued reliable response times to emergency calls, and modernize equipment and facilities to reduce long-term maintenance costs.
The department said it has not asked the voters for a capital bond request since 1998, when they purchased their current front-line fire engines.
“The current and expected population growth of our area is creating new challenges in meeting the rising demand for service in our community,” said Fire Chief Jeff Blake. "We need to modernize our organization’s facilities and equipment to meet the current and future needs of our fire district and Ambulance Service Area."
"We have done a lot over the last 23 years to not have our patrons invest in our department, but we are at a point now where our operational budget cannot sustain our equipment and facility needs."
The 15-year bond package is for $14.5 million, at an average cost of $0.83 or less per $1,000 of assessed value. If passed ,the bond will be split into two series. The first will be for $7 million and will be about .42 cents per $1,000 of property value. Then, 4-5 years later, another bond will be issued at $7.5 million.
Skaar said, "This bond is going to help us with replacing our equipment, replacing and upgrading our stations -- basically for our future growth."
Issuing the bonds in series will take advantage of expected growth and hopefully lower the bond rate to taxpayers below the average of 83 cents. A citizen oversight committee and the district’s board of directors will review the projects and expenditures over the life of the bond to ensure dollars are being spent for their intended purpose.
The projects included in the bond are:
- Upgrade of emergency fire and EMS apparatus for our career and volunteer staff to serve the community more effectively.
- Fire station renovations and expansion in both Madras and Culver to create separate quarters for men and women, new systems for all stations, and more office and community space for meetings.
- Fire training ground improvements and training props for local fire and EMS training. Firefighting equipment upgrades such as turnouts, SCBA Equipment, and medical gear for treating heart issues and strokes.
“The projects funded by this bond will allow the fire district to prepare for the continued growth of the region while protecting our communities and the men and women who provide emergency services,” said Chief Blake.
Jefferson County Fire & EMS provides fire, rescue, and emergency medical services for the citizens of Madras, Culver, Metolius and the surrounding areas, as well as ambulance service area of 1,100 square miles. Our full, part-time and volunteer employees respond to over 3,400 incidents annually from two stations.