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TVF&R is asking voters to replace levy

Measure 34-211 retains 42 firefighters and adds 44 more


Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters hope voters will answer the call for a property tax increase to keep crews on the road.

The fire district is asking voters to approve Measure 34-211, a $109 million five-year local option levy in Tuesday’s primary election that would allow it to retain 42 firefighter medics hired since 2000.

The replacement levy’s 20-cent increase over the current rate would also add up to 44 more firefighter medics, fund emergency apparatus and help fund new stations in areas causing response challenges.

“We understand that this is a big ask,” said Fire Chief Mike Duyck. “We acknowledge that there is a risk in asking the taxpayers to consider an increase in our local option levy, and we don’t do so lightly.

“The reality is there is also a risk ignoring response trends that are making it difficult for us to provide the fast and effective emergency service the public has come to expect from us.”

If voters approve the measure, TVF&R would be authorized to increase its tax rate up to 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for five years beginning in 2015, when the current levy expires. For the average homeowner, that translates to an annual cost of $104 — a $46 annual increase — for a home with an assessed value of $230,000.

The proposed replacement levy represents the second time in 25 years that TVF&R has asked taxpayers for a rate increase, and it comes 14 years after the last increase was approved. 

Measure 34-211 would allow the fire district to continue services and increase staffing and capital purchases at a time the region continues to experience ongoing growing pains, including heavy traffic congestion, an aging population and increases in 911 calls.

In 2013, fire district crews responded to 35,086 incidents. Duyck said those numbers will only continue to increase and drive call volume up for the foreseeable future.

“We need to make sure we get there fast enough with the right equipment and staffing,” he said. “There are response problems in front of us today, and increased response times are extremely problematic in an emergency.

“The reality is we can’t keep up with the pace of growth with the resources we have. The data we have collected has shown that it’s time to make an investment for the long term once again.”

In anticipation of a decision about what to place before voters, TVF&R’s Board of Directors asked for a detailed review of response data, said Karen Eubanks, a TVF&R spokeswoman. That analysis — which generated more than 150 reports from a data set of 200,000 incidents — provided a comprehensive overview of the district’s operational risks and identified solutions.

Seven areas were highlighted as having response challenges, which in turn impacts adjacent communities and the current 21 stations that are stretched to serve them all, she said.

“Even those lucky enough to have a fire station down the street are impacted when their firefighters are called to serve one of the seven areas,” Eubanks said. “The good news is that not all these areas require a traditional station, fire engine or four-person crew.” 

The replacement levy would address three of the seven areas through a mix of traditional and smaller fire stations and medic units, and in some cases, 40-hour firefighter medic staffing — versus 24-hour, Duyck added.  He said the levy would help fund the purchase of land for three new stations — two smaller ones potentially in Raleigh Hills and Charbonneau and a larger one in the Rosemont area of West Linn.

“Additional firefighters at new and existing sites within TVF&R’s network would improve response times and get us closer to meeting the industry standard of five minutes and 12 seconds following a 911 call,” Duyck said. “In the absense of this replacement levy, our communities would see a degredation of overall response — and that is just not acceptable.”

The existing levy that expires in June 2015 provides 14 percent of the fire district’s operating budget. If it is not replaced, district officials say TVF&R will face reductions in staffing and operations.

For more information about this levy and the fire district, visit tvfr.com.



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