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Fire bond going on November ballot

The Lebanon Fire District Board of Directors has unanimously passed a resolution to place a bond on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot to replace a station and key apparatus.

If approved by voters, the bond would replace one that will be retiring at an estimate net cost to taxpayers of 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Voters last approved a bond for stations and apparatus in 2006 for 20 cents per $1,000.

The fire district will pay off this bond one year early, which lowers the total amount paid by taxpayers. The replacement bond would be an estimated 34 cents/$1,000.

With the retiring bond, the net increase to taxpayers would be an estimated 14 cents/$1,000. This equates to an estimated $31.50 per year ($2.63 per month) for the average homeowner in the fire district.

The bond rate also is expected to decrease as Linn County grows, which will further reduce the amount for taxpayers.

The new bond would replace key apparatus, including three fire engines and two wildland firefighting trucks that are approaching the end of their usable lives. However, a majority of the funding would be used to replace the fire district’s main station on West Oak Street in Lebanon.

The station has been renovated several times. The fire district looked at doing seismic upgrades for the facility, but it wasn’t cost effective for a facility of its age and design. For example, sleeping quarters for firefighters are on the opposite end of the building from emergency apparatus, which delays response times.

Some of the sleeping quarters also lack windows, sprinklers and smoke alarms, which is a safety concern. There also is no effective diesel exhaust removal system in the engine bays. Exhaust fumes are a known carcinogen, and rates of cancer among firefighters are some of the highest in the nation.

“We found a way to fund our capital needs for the next 25 years while reducing the impact to taxpayers,” said Fire Chief Gordon Sletmoe.

Daily operations for emergency services are primarily funded by a property tax levy and ambulance revenue. Funding for high cost capital items, such as stations or emergency apparatus, is raised through bonds.

“We can’t control what firefighters face during emergencies, which is why we train hard for any situation,” Sletmoe said.

“But we can make sure they have a safe working environment when not on a call. This station is not a healthy for them. It is not safe for our firefighters or community.”

More information on the replacement bond proposal can be found on the fire district’s web site at www.lebanonfire.com. The fire district will continue to share information about the proposal through its newsletter, web site, news releases and social media accounts. Sletmoe also is available to answer questions at (541) 451-6103 or [email protected].