DAYTON - Central Lyon County residents will be asked to pay a 17-cent tax property tax increase for improved fire services.
Following a three-hour workshop session, the Central Lyon County Fire District Board on Thursday rescinded their prior vote to pursue a 20-cent per $100 assessed valuation increase and voted to direct District Chief Bill Driscoll to begin the process of writing a 17-cent tax initiative question for the 2000 November General Election.
Deciding not to wait for the results of a second survey, sent out this week to 10 percent of the district's registered voters, the board elected to ask for funding to allow for a paid two-person team at both Silver Springs and Sutro Station 24-hours a day.
Three shifts would be created, with each team of one firefighter/paramedic and one firefighter/EMT working a 24-hour shift.
If approved by voters, the tax hike will generate approximately $476,000. According to calculations by board members, this would allow the hiring of four firefighter/EMT's, three firefighter/paramedics, one shift captain and one clerk.
Two additional ambulances will be necessary. One would be purchased with the new revenue and one within the district's current operating budget. The remaining $30,000 would be used for the purchase of related equipment needs.
Noting additional sleeping quarters will be necessary, the board agreed to apply for a low interest USDA loan to cover needed remodeling costs at the Silver Springs and Sutro fire stations.
Mound House resident Chuck Roberts said the plan did not appear to address the issue of response time and questioned the district's overall ratio of supervisory personnel to employees. Under the proposed plan, there would be six administrators overseeing 15 employees.
"If we place the teams just at Silver Springs and Sutro, it doesn't change the situation much. The impact would come if they were placed at different stations," he said. "Wouldn't we get a better bang for the buck to spend the money on another paramedic than an additional supervisor?"
Driscoll emphasized the two-man teams will not cut response time.
"They will increase the reliability of the system in delivering services to residents," he told the board. "As calls increase, the volunteers cannot keep up."
Driscoll said the district needs to go about developing the relatively small district incrementally, "And the two-man teams are the next logical step. It will not solve all the problems, but it will improve service."
An inspector/firefighter and mechanic/firefighter were removed from the original proposal.
With daytime calls on the increase, Chairman Sue Lawson said the board's original goal in pursuing the tax initiative was to increase emergency coverage during working hours.
"We need help from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Our job is to decide how many people are needed and what facilities and equipment is necessary," she said.
District medical technician Kelly Greenough said 60 percent of all calls occur during these hours, with only three responders available during those hours Monday through Friday.
"That time is the lowest point for volunteer coverage. On any given day we are lucky to get 10 volunteers during those times."
Vehemently opposed to a 20-cent increase, Board member Richard Forant argued against the necessity of purchasing additional ambulances, stating, "We have ambulances sitting in stations we do not use. When volunteers start showing up we will get them the equipment they need. I see a lot of pork in this plan. I need a plan I can sell to the taxpayers."
District staff members pointed out that due to mileage limitations new ambulances would be needed in the near future regardless.
Chuck Ayres, in support of the 20-cent increase, said, "The right decision is not always popular. I keep hearing it will not pass, but I have not had one negative phone call. Some have even said they would pay more, if needed. Put it to a vote. If it fails, it fails."
The results of the board's original survey, sent to 34 individual members of community boards and agencies resulted in 17 responses. Results showed 58 percent rated emergency services as fair, with over 70 percent saying services should be upgraded. Forty percent indicated a preference for the two-person 24-hour teams.
If the proposal is approved the district would have a total of 19 employees plus the district chief.