Ophir Hill proposes fee to fully staff fire station
The Ophir Hill Fire Protection District board of directors is proposing a special assessment, or fire suppression fee, on properties within the district in order to staff the Colfax Highway fire station 24 hours a day.
“Right now we have two full time and one seasonal staff on from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” said Ophir Hill Fire District Chief Robb Rothenberger. “After (6 p.m.) we have to rely solely on our volunteers.”
And volunteers, he said, are increasingly difficult to recruit and retain.
“The younger ones move on to other agencies like CDF,” he said. “Now we’re down to 10. That means at night you may only get four to five volunteers responding.”
He said it takes volunteers approximately five to six minutes longer to respond to an incident from their homes than it does a firefighter already at the station, where the engines are housed.
A volunteer has to make a stop at the station to pick up the engine before he drives out to a fire or medical call.
“If there is a true heart attack where someone is not breathing and unresponsive,” Rothenberger said, “that five to six minutes can mean the difference between life and death.”
The fee would raise the amount received by the district from property taxes on a $450,000 a single family residence, for example, from approximately $10.10 – currently a percentage of property tax – to a flat assessment amount of $113.90 per year. That breaks down to 31.2 cents per day, which would enable the fire district to hire two additional permanent firefighters and one seasonal firefighter.
The figures were determined by an engineering firm hired by the district.
District staff say the additional staff is crucial for the safety of district residents.
Last year, the fire district received 144 calls between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., Rothenberger said.
Ballots have been mailed to the approximately 1,500 people who own property in the district, and they are expected to send in their votes by June 13, when they will be counted at the district’s 5 p.m. board meeting.
The assessment would not be based on the value of a home, but the residence type; the assessment amounts for multifamily units, homes with a guest house and nonresidential parcels would vary.
Unlike residential parcels, fees for commercial properties would be based on parcel size.
A cost-of-living adjustment is also included in the assessment, based on statistics from the Bureau of Labor. The annual adjustment comes with a cap of 5 percent.
Rothenberger said that thus far, the district has received positive feedback from residents who have received their ballots.
“Only one member of the public showed up to last night’s board meeting,” he said Wednesday. “And he had positive things to say. Everyone who has come into the station has had a real good response. We’re hopeful it will stay that way.”
Ballots were mailed out April 26, along with self-addressed, prepaid postage envelopes. Ballots need to be signed and postmarked in sufficient time to be received no later than June 13. If residents are unable to mail ballots by the deadline, they can hand deliver them by 5 p.m., June 13, to the Ophir Hill Fire District administrative office, 12668 Colfax Highway in Cedar Ridge.
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
Proposed assessment amount for types of land use
Land use Annual
Single family residence $113.90/parcel
Multi-family (duplexes) $85.43/unit
Mobile home $113.90/parcel
Residence w/second unit $170.85/parcel
Unimproved parcels $34.17/parcel
2,000 sq. ft. or less $227.80/parcel
5,000 sq. ft. $569.50/parcel
15,000 sq.ft. $1,423.75/parcel
25,000 sq. ft. $1,850.88/parcel
*The fee is reduced by 50 percent with a sprinkler system.
What: Ophir Hill Fire Protection District’s 50th anniversary picnic
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 20
Where: Ophir Hill Fire Protection District, 12668 Colfax Highway, Cedar Ridge
Food, drinks and more information about the fire assessment will be available to the public.
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