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Redmond Fire & Rescue to seek first local option levy in May

Without more money, district says it may need to cut medics, ambulance team

(Update: adding video, fire official, Redmond resident comments )

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Redmond Fire & Rescue’s Board of Directors said Wednesday they have unanimously agreed to place a five-year local option levy of 27¢ per $1,000 of assessed value on the May 19 ballot.

This is the first time the district has asked voters to approve a local option levy.

According to Board President Carroll Penhollow, the additional funds would be used to maintain Redmond Fire & Rescue’s current level of response to fire and medical emergencies, as well as ambulance transport.

“A growing and aging population has contributed to a 34% increase in emergency calls in the last six years,” said Penhollow. “Passage of the levy would help ensure that the district can continue to respond to each emergency with a minimum of two fully trained firefighters or medics at all hours of the day or night.”

Redmond Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Ken Kehmna says the levy would also help ensure paramedic-level response to all life-threatening medical emergencies.

“Paramedics with Advanced Life Support skills are able to provide procedures on scene that were once only available in emergency rooms,” says Kehmna. “The proposed local option levy would help ensure that we are able to send paramedics with these skills to all life-threatening emergencies.”

The fire district said 85 percent of all calls for service are medical emergencies, and in addition to helping guarantee that all medical calls are responded to by a team of at least two medics, the levy would help ensure district medical responders are supplied with up-to-date equipment such
as cardiac defibrillators, chest compression systems and other life-support equipment that can substantially improve patient survival rates.

Jeff Puller, deputy fire chief, told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday the levy is overdue. According to Puller, the district has been keeping a close eye on its budget.

“Well, for the last couple years, we’ve been doing our best to be financially responsible and trying to make our dollars stretch as far as we can," Puller said. "At some point in time, the equipment, the call volume and the personnel are outrunning our budget.”

The levy would also allow the district to replace out-of-date thermal imagers and expiring breathing apparatus used by firefighters to enter burning structures to fight fire and save lives.

According to Kehmna, if the five-year levy is not approved, the district may need to reduce medic positions, resulting in the elimination of one of the five ambulance teams that currently serve the district each day, or make other operational changes that could delay response time.

Without those additional medics, life-saving action at medical emergencies and fires would be delayed.

The inability to maintain staffing with the current tax revenue is a result of inflation and increasing operational costs, thedistrict said.

The cost to the individual property owner of the local option levy would vary, depending on the taxable assessed value (not market value) of their property. For residential property with a taxable assessed value of $200,000, about average for residential property in the district, the cost of a 27¢ local option levy would be $54 a year, or $4.50 per month.

The response to the levy among Redmond residents appears split. Bob Meyers said he's in favor of the levy because he once had to call Redmond Fire and Rescue for help.

“It’s a big deal when you need them," Meyers said. "So absolutely I think it's money well spent.”

But Paul Smith said he moved to Redmond from Portland to escape high taxes.

“I’m not for it," Smith said. "I think we already have enough taxes.”

Article Topic Follows: Redmond
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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.

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