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Paul Matson: Nevada City needs Measure C

Nevada City's fire department has protected community since its early days, such as with the historic Fire House No. 2 built in 1861. If approved, Measure C funding would help support the city's more modern-day firefighting, and policing, efforts.
Submitted photo by David McKay |

In less than four short weeks the Nov. 8, 2016 election will be history. There’s a lot to consider locally as well as state-wide and nationally.

For Nevada City voters, Measure C is the big one.

If passed it will permanently fund and secure a level of public safety that our community needs and deserves. That “community” includes not only city residents. Every day our population swells with people coming to work, shop, visit or attend one of our many local schools.



Until recently the Nevada City Fire Department shared equipment and personnel at city Station #54 with Nevada County Consolidated Fire District. That arrangement ended last year leaving Nevada City three firefighters short.

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The city implemented “rolling brownouts” to deal with the staffing shortage. It became immediately clear we were not meeting the National Fire Protection Association Standards. Our response time rose from four minutes to seven and a half minutes. That three-and-a-half-minute increase is huge.




Fire districts are rated in California by the ISO (Insurance Service Office) from one to 10. The lower the rating, the better. We were at the outset of the staffing shortfall rated as a five. The ISO was considering raising Nevada City to an eight.

That would have been a disaster. For those who could obtain fire insurance, premiums would have doubled or even tripled. The city wisely ended the brownouts and funded three firefighters with revenue from an earlier sales tax initiative, Measure L, which expires in 2018.

With this timely action our ISO rating remains at a level of five. Even better, with additional new cooperative efforts with other departments, it may drop to a four. That would be great news.

Our small town is nestled in a forest with fire danger levels elevated by a four-year drought, longer fire seasons and an ever increasing number of dry, dead trees.

We need a strong fire department.

That’s a thumbnail sketch of protection of property. The human side looms large as well. Seventy-five percent of Nevada City Fire Department calls are medical. Be it a stroke or heart attack victim, someone in need of CPR, a defibrillator or any other emergency medical help, time is of the utmost essence.

As Nevada City Fire Chief Sam Goodspeed said recently “In a medical emergency the difference of three and a half minutes can be the difference between life and death.” Measure C will provide the funding to get our people to the scene on time.

In addition to permanently resolving fire department staffing issues, Measure C will also allow the Nevada City Police Department to add one additional patrol person. We are a lively town to say the least, with schools, our two business districts, two industrial parks, two office and professional districts, the offices of the Nevada County seat and courthouse, and the headquarters of the Tahoe National Forest. We are a bustling business, public service and visitor destination.

It takes a strong police force to make that all work. Chief Tim Foley says it best in describing the benefits of Measure C to our city. “Having an adequately staffed and funded police department is essential for public safety and a thriving local economy. Having sufficient officers to patrol the various neighborhoods, parks and business areas increases the quality of life for residents and attracts visitors to our wonderful city.”

Measure C is a three-eighths of a percent increase in the city’s sales tax (that’s 38 cents on a $100 dinner out). It will generate about $432,000 annually. Roughly two-thirds of that revenue will come from non-city residents. Because our public safety services are used by all those that come to Nevada City for whatever reason, a sales tax increase is the only fair way to provide the needed funding.

Because a two-thirds majority is required to pass Measure C, state law mandates that these funds can be spent only as just described.

I respectfully ask for your “Yes” vote on Measure C. It and it alone will help us keep Nevada City the great place that it is; to live, work, go to school, visit and enjoy. Thank you.

Paul Matson, who lives in Nevada City, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His opinion is his own and does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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