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Penn Valley rejects parcel assessment increase

John Orona
Staff Writer

Parcel owners within the Penn Valley Fire Protection District have rejected a $215 assessment fee increase measure at the ballot box that would have allowed the district to hire six more firefighter/paramedics.

Of the more than 6,500 ballots mailed out, 1,903 voters were against the initiative and 1,257 were in favor — 60.2% against compared to 39.8% in support. The election results will be certified by the district board of directors today.

The initiative was brought forward due to a 62% increase in call volume, with the district more frequently fielding three simultaneous emergency calls with its two-team operation. The six new hires would have given the district enough staff to add an additional two-person team to each shift.

“Two and increasingly three calls at a time have become common,” board chair Bruce Stephenson said in a press release. “Our Board of Directors voted in August 2019 to move forward with a proposal asking parcel owners for approval of a fee increase to hire additional personnel because we simply haven’t enough staff to respond to this increase in call volume.”

According to Joey Jordan of the Protect Penn Valley Committee, more than half of the district’s personnel budget comes from special taxes collected due to the agency offering advanced life-saving services like ambulances and paramedics.

But Jordan warned if they are unable to quickly respond to calls, they’ll be in jeopardy of losing that funding as well, leaving the district with two firefighters to cover 92 square miles of Penn Valley.

“They’ve done everything they can to spend the taxpayers’ dollar as wisely and efficiently and responsibly as they can. This organization knows how to squeeze the nickel,” Jordan said. “They have served this community in such an incredible fashion but that service comes at a price and if we as a community choose not to pay for the service … it will have an effect.”

Jordan said when there aren’t enough firefighter/paramedics to meet the demand, other agencies have to respond, which can drastically change wait time and the outcome of an emergency.

“Time really matters in situations like this,” she said. “That can add 20 minutes to response time, depending where the call is coming from.”

While there are no immediate plans about where to go from here, Jordan said the district will continue pinching pennies and meet with stakeholders about how to raise money to cover the more than $1 million funding gap.

“Something is going to have to happen, this money is not going to come from the state, it’s not going to come from the feds,” Jordan said. “The only place money can come from is parcel owners and they’ve said ‘no,’ so now we have to figure it out.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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