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Northern Lakes needs new fire stations

SATURDAY, AUG. 2, 2008

Growth projections indicate additional protection needed

If new construction impact fees are approved and implemented within the Northern Lakes Fire Protection District, two new fire stations will likely be built in the Rathdrum area within the next 10 years.

Two years ago, Kootenai County Commissioner Todd Tondee campaigned in Boise for fire districts to collect impact fees under House Bill 204. Previously, only agencies with taxing authority could impose the fees. Once the bill passed, the county created an impact fee committee to develop a capital improvement plan. In order to collect impact fees, a capital improvement plan must be created to show capital expenditures for the next 10 years. Currently, the plan projects that two new fire stations are needed in Rathdrum, one now and one over the next 10 years. Current growth projections show the largest amount of growth in the next 10 years will likely happen in the Rathdrum area, said Larry Clark, fire commissioner for the Northern Lakes Fire Protection District.

“There’s growth coming from Hayden on one side and Post Falls on the south side, so there’s nowhere to go except the Rathdrum Prairie,” Clark said.

The first station would be built on the property next to the existing station in Rathdrum for just under $2 million, Clark said. Residential growth over the next 10 years will determine where the second station will be most needed, if at all, said Dean Marcus, fire chief for the district.

Without impact fees, the stations will not be built now or in 10 years, Clark said, because there just isn’t enough money. And the stations are desperately needed. The existing station in Rathdrum is a pole building.

“It’s in terrible, terrible shape,” Clark said. “I have a horse barn on my property that’s in better shape than that fire station. I told the city council that. People laughed and I said, ‘I’m not being facetious, that’s the truth.’ ”

To implement the fees in the three cities the district covers – Rathdrum, Hayden and Hayden Lake – elected leaders in each city must hold public hearings then vote on the matter. Even if Kootenai County passes impact fees, the cities within the county do not have to. Clark, who is on an advisory board for the county, is sure the county will support the fee.

“The impact fee is not a tax on existing residents, it’s charged on new construction,” he said. “We’re trying to take the burden off the existing taxpayer and put it on new growth. Impact fees are the fair way for new construction.”

The new construction impact fee would require new residents to pay $1,583 on top of the $1,791 impact fee for road construction, $1,635 for park improvements and $152 for the Police Department, Clark said.

Currently, existing taxpayers are footing the $1,583 fee for new residents.

“New growth is going to stretch us out and there’s only so much to stretch,” Marcus said.

The impact fees can only be used on capital improvements or equipment that has a life span of at least 10 years, Clark said. They can’t pay for labor.

With or without the fees, residents will have to pay more either way, Clark said. If cities do not approve the fees, the stations have to be built outside city limits. They will likely pull all the stations back to Hayden and operate from there if they do not get impact fees. Therefore, the response time to Rathdrum would be very high. Right now, the Northern Lakes district has a 4 rating from the Idaho state insurance fire rating. The insurance rate is built on response time – the faster a station’s response, the lower the number.

“The city would pay a lot more money for home insurance because the fire rating would go up because response time would be higher,” Clark said. Residents will pay more whether for new growth or higher insurance for their homes.

“Impact fees are fair and equitable to everyone involved,” he said.


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