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Review of Measure 17-98 : Formation of Josephine Rural Fire Protection District

NOTE: Five of the Candidates running for the proposed Board of Directors for the Josephine Rural Fire Protection District will be at our April 13, 2021 6:30 pm General Meeting. We highly encourage you to join in this important discussion! Pre-registration at this link.

In May 2019, the Josephine County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) asked voters an advisory question: “In your opinion, should Josephine County begin the process to form a Rural Fire Protection District (RFPD) in currently unprotected areas?” An overwhelming 65% of the voters voted in favor of the formation of a RFPD. Accordingly, the BCC established a Fire Protection Committee and hired a private, unbiased consultant, Public Consulting Group to “assess and study fire protection in the unprotected areas.”

The final report made by Public Consulting Group provided several recommendations, however, the BCC ultimately chose to put this issue on the ballot for residents to decide.

Keeping in mind that 65% of the voters already demonstrated support for the formation of a Rural Fire Protection District, this should be a no brainer, but opposition focusses on the desire to keep competitive private for profit models, and the issue of new “taxes”.

One of the larger issues of concern with private for profit fire protection is that there are NO standards for those offering “fire protection” services, as highlighted on page 47 of the report.

Retired Fire Public Information Officer, Geri Ventura elaborated on the need to pass this measure in her guest editorial provided to the “YES ON FIRE DISTRICT” committee.

JOSEPHINE COUNTY NEEDS IMPROVED FIRE PROTECTION SERVICES!

Geri Ventura, Retired Montecito Fire
Protection District, Public Information Officer

Currently, a large portion of rural Josephine County has no fire protection agency available to its constituents unless they subscribe to one of several private for-profit service providers.

Passage of Local Measure 17-98 would create an Independent Rural Fire District that would provide service in these areas not currently served by a Fire District. If passed, this would provide governance by an elected five member Board of Directors who would be responsible for determining standards of coverage, annual budgets and operational policies.

Special districts link costs to benefits. General purpose local governments, such as counties and cities, levy taxes to pay for general public services and balance their budgets with each department they oversee. In a special district, only those who benefit from the district’s services pay for them. Because most special districts are geographically smaller and made up of fewer residents than an entire county or city, they’re also generally more responsive to their constituents.

The creation of this Independent Rural Fire District will allow for effective emergency management services and create an entity for planning, coordination and grant funding.

Constituents do not have this kind of local control when forced to choose from volunteer fire service models, or private for-profit fire service. This special district will provide local governance and provide transparency with their annual budgets and reports.

Almost 30% of property owners in the proposed Fire District do not subscribe to either of the private fire services available to them. This means that if you are a current subscriber, you are subsidizing the protection of those who do not. Fire protection, law enforcement and the military are societal responsibilities best managed as a service for all, not just the few who choose to subscribe.

While non-subscribers don’t pay up front for service, they still benefit when the need arises and they call 911 for medical assistance or other fire service related incidents.

Non-subscribers benefit up-front from the 24/7 on-call response, including the training personnel receive; the maintenance and purchase of equipment, and the general overhead expenses necessary for the agency to exist, yet they contribute nothing to maintain this very necessary public safety service.

We have seen that our community is just an ember away from a fire conflagration that has the capacity to wipe out large swaths of our community potentially taking lives while everything else gets burned to the ground. We need to be pro-active about this! Providing local governance of this service puts the power in the hands of the people served. An Independent Rural Fire District will allow for input from its constituents and transparency in how revenues are utilized to increase the safety of the community.

It is equally important to get the right people elected to the positions that will provide this governance.

While the final elected Board of Directors will ultimately decide on levels of service, policy and budget development, these candidates, endorsed by the “Yes for Fire District Committee”, have committed to pursuing what I believe to be in the best interest of this community.

If elected, these five candidate have agreed to pursue the following proposals for the newly formed Fire District that will benefit not only all who live within the boundaries of the proposed district, but neighboring agencies will benefit by creating a complete network for emergency services in Josephine County.

The slate of endorsed candidates propose:

    • Improved response times for all calls for service, including fires, medical emergencies and lift assists
    • Application of state grant funding to provide a new fire station in Hugo
    • Full time 24/7 staffing at the Robertson Bridge Merlin fire station
    • Application for Fire District specific grants for staffing, training, and surplus equipment
    • Fuels reduction programs for low income residents
    • District to be staffed by highly trained, well-equipped, and professional men and women
    • Improved insurance ratings for some rural constituents
    • Provide a process for low income property owners to apply for financial hardship consideration
Position #1 – Jeff Hollenbeck
Position #2 – Dorothy Yetter
Position #3 – Mark Jones
Position #4 – Randy Benetti, Sr.

Position #5 – Danny Kahler

I am excited that we have this opportunity to create a Fire District for rural Josephine County residents, and I ask that you join me in voting YES on Measure 17-98 and voting for this great slate of candidates! Rural Josephine County residents deserves this. We’ve been neglected in the area of fire protection services for too long.

For more information, go to the Yes on 17-98 website: http://yesonfiredistrict.com

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