Banks Fire District levy deserves support
Banks Fire District #13 is asking voters to approve a $4 million bond measure that will allow it to build a fire station In Buxton; upgrade existing vehicles and equipment; buy safety and medical equipment; and improve existing fire stations.
The fire district serves roughly 8,000 people over 136 square miles. That number is clearly higher than when a 1999 bond measure passed, allowing the district to build its current station in downtown Banks.
Emergency call volume is higher too, due to the population increase not only locally but in Washington County overall.
The countywide increase means more people are drawn through western Washington County on their way to big attractions such as the Oregon Coast, Stub Stewart State Park and the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail, not to mention those who will flock to the upcoming Salmonberry Trail from Banks to Tillamook.
All that means more trips along the three highways running through the fire district (47, 6 and 26), leading to more crashes and more emergency calls for Banks firefighters.
There are also more mutual aid calls to the south of the city, where Forest Grove's population has grown.
Banks Fire responded to 467 calls in 2012. Based on calls so far this year, Chief Rodney Linz estimates that number is on track to be 750 — a 61 percent increase.
About half of those were to Buxton-area emergencies, which firefighters can reach from the Banks station in six or seven minutes, Linz said.
That length of time can mean life or death for people experiencing heart attacks or other emergencies, where even 45 seconds can make a difference.
A new station could cut response time in the Buxton area dramatically.
The current fire station in Buxton was built in 1954 and holds a single fire engine. While there are four volunteers in the Buxton area, they all work at other jobs during the day so aren't available to answer calls.
When they're home, it still
takes them several minutes to get from their home to the Buxton
station, where they can finally head out to the call.
The new building would hold two vehicles, anticipating the need for a second vehicle sometime in the future, as well as a place to station other rigs that might be called to the area for a large, multi-day firefighting operation.
It will also hold sleeping quarters for six. Linz plans to staff the station round-the-clock with a combination of volunteers and interns who can be supervised by a lieutenant and an engineer to drive and navigate the rig when necessary.
The interns will come from fire science programs at local colleges, similar to intern arrangements in Forest Grove and Cornelius.
The land and building would cost $3.5 million and the remaining $500,000 would pay for a water tender and other equipment for the district's Banks and Timber stations, including renovations in Timber.
Approval would amount to a renewal of the 1999 bond measure, which will be paid off in June 2018. The rate for that measure was 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value and the new bond's rate would be 47 cents, adding up to $47 a year for a $100,000 property. Bonds would mature in 21 years or less.
Given that the measure won't dramatically increase what district residents have already been paying, and given that calls to the Buxton area are likely to continue increasing, the News-Times urges voters to support this levy in order to meet the growing needs of their increasingly popular corner of western Washington County.