Marion County Fire District 1 will ask voters for another levy worth $6.7 million over two years. (Courtesy/Marion County Fire District 1)
Marion County Fire District 1 is planning to ask voters to pay for additional firefighters and new equipment in the face of dwindling volunteerism and increasing call loads.
Residents in the Four Corners, Middle Grove, Pratum, Macleay, Brooklake, Clearlake, Labish Center and Chemeketa College Station neighborhoods will vote on May 19 whether to do so.
The agency will seek 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value — about $198 per year for a $200,000 home. By comparison, the levy that expires in June taxed 71 cents, worth $142 per year. The levy would raise $6.7 million over two years.
Fire Chief Kyle McMann said the new money would help pay for two additional firefighters, a deputy fire marshal and replacement apparatus and equipment.
McMann said the district is struggling to respond to calls as volunteer numbers have diminished and call volume has risen more than 5% a year on average.
There were 130 volunteers when McMann joined the district in 2001, he said. Now there are 60.
Last year, firefighters responded to 8,062 calls, up from 7604 in 2018. The district often relies on other agencies to help respond to calls, which lengthens response times.
McMann said there’s currently a medic unit and engine staffed from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Clearlake station on 8005 Wheatland Rd. N. By adding the additional staff, McMann is hoping to have that station staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
The district currently has 52 full-time personnel and three part-time staff.
McMann said the district wants to add a fire marshal to conduct more inspections and help educate the public.
The district also plans to start paying for equipment like fire engines and water tenders with cash instead of relying on bonds that are set to expire in 2022 and 2024, he said.
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