Measure I supporters fight for fire tax increase for Higgins
The question supporters of a fire tax increase have for residents of the Higgins Fire Protection District is simple: What is fire protection worth to you?
The district, which covers 94 square miles, has struggled to provide needed services on a tax assessment of $25 per single-family dwelling, which was enacted in 1980. After failing three times in the last decade to win approval for a tax increase, the district has left its Dog Bar Road station unstaffed since 2016.
That station and its large closed signs was the backdrop for a rally last week in support of Measure I, a new special parcel tax of $240 per dwelling unit. Commercial buildings would be taxed at $30 per 1,000 square feet, while industrial space would be $35 per 1,000 square feet.
For $20 a month per residence, Higgins would be able to reopen its Dog Bar station, add paramedic services to all three stations, and enhance coverage and response times for the entire district, proponents say.
The passage of Measure I would be “a big deal for us,” said measure supporter Marty Main, who also serves as the current chair of the district’s board of directors.
County supervisor Ed Scofield was on hand for the rally to express his support for the tax measure.
“It’s so unfortunate to have this station closed,” Scofield said, noting the area is “prime” for a wildfire.
“People have to say they’re willing to pay for fire protection,” Scofield said. “Come on — $25 a year is ridiculous.”
Fire Chief Jerry Good noted he started his career at the Dog Bar station, staffing the fire house by himself. Back then, Good said, the district’s firefighters might get 100 medical calls a year. Last year, they responded to 1,200 medical calls.
The tax increase is simply about providing needed services, to the people of the district, Good said. For example, it currently takes 15 to 20 minutes to get a fire engine out to the Dog Bar area.
“The time to get here is a problem,” he said, adding that a response time of five to eight minutes is the recommendation of the National Fire Protection Association.
Having firefighter paramedics on each shift would be a huge boon, he said, since 60% of the district’s calls are for medical aid.
“The money will not be used for benefits or raises,” he said. “It will be for new hires.”
Margaret Joehnck, chairwoman of Friends of Higgins Fire for Measure I, acknowledged the steep jump in the fee. But, she said, the increase is still less than other districts in the county.
Jody Black, who lives nearby, said she hopes fire district residents have learned the lesson that they need to pay for services.
“It takes 20 minutes for the paramedics to get here,” said Black, who lives just two miles from the shuttered Dog Bar Station. “That’s not good. The nearest (open) firehouse is at Combie Road. That’s nine miles away, and given the roads, it’s not a quick trip. Then it takes 40 minutes to get from here to the hospital. I could get dressed, feed my animals and still beat the ambulance to the hospital.”
No argument against the measure was filed with the Nevada County elections office.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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