With voter approval of $16 million fire bond, next up is design

By Sarah Brown

and Sean C. Morgan

Lebanon Local

Lebanon Fire District voters approved a 26-year $16 million bond to replace the main fire station at its current location with an estimated tax rate of 34 cents per $1,000 of property valuation, $68 per year on a $200,000 home.

The bond passed 52.23 percent, 3,062 votes, to 47.77 percent, 2,800 votes. Voter turnout was 26.28 percent of 22,321 registered voters, with 5,867 ballots cast. Five of the ballots were returned blank.

The bond also will replace three aging fire engines, two brush rigs, firefighting equipment, and pay for rehabilitation, renovation and improvements to other facilities within the Fire District.

The bond replaces a 2006 bond levy that charges 20 cents per $1,000 of property valuation, $40 per year on a $200,000 home. The new bond would be a net increase of 14 cents per $1,000, $28 per year on a $200,000 home.

The 2006 bond paid for emergency apparatus and two fire stations, at Cheadle Lake and Berlin Road.

“We are very pleased that the bond passed,” said Gordon Sletmoe, fire chief.

The first thing the fire district will do is sell the bonds and have the new building design developed.

“What we have right now is a conceptual design, but we don’t have the actual design,” he said.

He expects those first steps will take place within the first couple of months of the new year. Completing the design, getting permits and finishing necessary studies for the construction is expected to be done throughout the rest of the calendar year, he said. Construction may begin in late 2020 or early 2021.

Part of the planning process will include a plan on how to temporarily house people and equipment while construction is going on.

Concerning the purchase of new equipment, Sletmoe believes the fire district will spread that out over time.

“We know we have some initial needs that we might get started on very soon, and then push a few of the rigs a little farther downstream, just so we have more time to deal with that,” he said.

Sletmoe will retire at the end of the month, and will be replaced by fire chief Joseph Rodondi.

“Leaving the fire district is easier, knowing that we have such a strong partnership with our community to save lives and property,” Sletmoe said

The current facility on Oak Street was built in 1975, before California experienced large earthquakes that led to changes in building standards.

“I hesitate to say it, but it’s true: We don’t meet fire code in this fire station,” Fire Chief Gordon Sletmoe said last year. “This fire station has served the Lebanon Fire District, the citizens of Lebanon and the surrounding area really well, but if you look around you can tell it’s been used. It hasn’t been used up, but it’s time for a change.”

Also, research indicates pollutants from the apparatus bay endanger the health of the firefighters sleeping overhead, he added.

“I really do believe if we can’t protect our people, we can’t protect you. For that reason alone, it’s enough to be looking at a new fire station.

“The other thing is, this is not Lebanon 1975. This is Lebanon 2018. We’ve outgrown this station, we have trucks and people wedged into every nook and cranny in this station, and it’s just too small.”