Fire District weighs funding options for Fire Station 1

Newman Lake commissioners, residents seem to favor $2.2 million bond to foot entire cost

The crowd that filled the Newman Lake Fire District Station 1 on Tuesday told fire commissioners that they should ask voters for a $2.2 million bond in November in order to build a new fire station.

The special meeting was called to present three funding options to the public and get feedback. The three options ranged from asking for a bond for the entire $2.2 million cost of the new Station 1 or using a mix of a bond, loan and reserves. The all-bond option would cost voters an estimated 60 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value, which would be $120 a year for a $200,000 home. The third option of using a $1.5 million bond, $500,000 loan and $250,000 from reserves was not well liked by commissioners or the audience, even though it would lower the cost to voters to 40 cents per $1,000 in assessed value.

Commissioner Eileen Weyrauch said she believed the first option with a $2.2 million bond would provide the best economic stability. “If we go with any of the other scenarios we’re putting the district at risk financially,” she said.

The first option would allow the district to add an estimated $95,000 a year to the district’s reserves and wouldn’t require any help from the general fund. The third option would drop the amount to be put into reserves to $52,000 a year and would cost the district nearly $43,000 from the general fund every year for payment on the $500,000 loan. The district currently has $365,000 in its reserves, which is for large expenses like replacing a firetruck and other equipment.

Fire Chief Keith Yamane said he also favored the first option. “You’re not going into reserves,” he said. The district will need to use some of its reserves soon to replace turnout gear and air tanks, he said. The district’s rescue truck doesn’t always start and will need to be replaced soon. “Everything wears out and needs to be replaced.”

Having a station that is old and too small is a safety issue, said resident Lynn Woehrle. “I think we just need to do this,” she said.

Resident Sharon Ball said the safety of the volunteer firefighters is also a priority. “I think the only way to go is scenario No. 1 because we have to protect Newman Lake,” she said.

The new fire station would go on 12 acres of land the district already owns at Starr and Moffat roads. Commissioner Clayton Anderson said the commissioners recognize that this isn’t the best time to ask for money. “The fact is, this station needs to be replaced,” he said.

The plan for a new station wasn’t put together “willy-nilly” and was the product of years of planning, he said. “The planning stage started in 2002.”

The commissioners will have another meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Station 1, 10236 N. West Newman Lake Drive, to take a vote on which funding option to put on the November ballot.

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