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Rockford fire levy going back before voters

Measure failed to get supermajority in November

The Rockford Fire Department is taking a second shot at passing a replacement levy that provides nearly 40 percent of the all-volunteer department’s annual budget.

The levy was first on the ballot in November and failed despite getting a 56.71 percent yes vote. The 93 yes votes did not meet the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass. The one-year replacement levy on the April 17 ballot that begins arriving in mailboxes this week asks voters to approve 51 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value to collect $12,500 in 2013.

The department’s old levy expired in 2011. “We’ve had it for several years,” said Rockford Fire Chief Brad Marlow of the levy. “It has always passed up until this last one.”

Marlow is also the assistant chief of Spokane County Fire District 11, which surrounds Rockford. The two organizations share resources and volunteers, but have separate operating budgets. The Rockford Fire Department’s annual budget is about $33,000. “This funding is strictly for the town of Rockford,” Marlow said.

The department has been trying to spread the word about the importance of the levy. A resident has volunteered to go door to door with some fliers and information has been sent out in the town’s utility bills, he said.

Meanwhile the department is struggling to get through 2012 without the levy funding. It must follow National Fire Protection Association standards that require firefighter turnout gear to be replaced after 10 years. Each set costs $1,800 and there are 25 volunteer firefighters. “We’ve got 12 sets of gear that are out of service or beyond the 10 years,” Marlow said.

The levy money is needed to keep the department running at its current level. “I think we’re pretty well trained as far as the types of situations we deal with,” he said. “I think we’ve provided a pretty high level of service for the funding we have available.”

Marlow said he’s not sure what the department will do if the levy fails again. “It’s going to mean not being able to update certain pieces of equipment,” he said. “We’ve got to maintain the safety level as best we can.”

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