A fire district divided against itself can't stand
The Aurora Rural Fire Protection District is asking voters to approve a $5.9 million bond to build a central station and purchase new fire trucks.
With fire trucks that are older than many of the firefighters and a need to reach more rural constituents, we at the Independent endorse this bond measure.
Aurora Fire passed an operating levy in November, so it could confuse voters or sway them away from voting yes on this one. The November levy was for operating expenses, but this measure is much more valuable. Not only will it provide tangible, positive results, it will do so at a cost we think is pretty low: 49 cents per $1,000 assessed value.
The fire district has purchased property on Ehlen Road, just east of the Donald/Aurora exit on Interstate 5. This strategic location will allow easier access to rural places that take longer now. When theres a large fire, every second counts.
Not only will this facility be more centrally located, but it will also allow for increased, safer training. Right now, volunteers have to go all the way to Brooks for practice and orientation. If a fire broke out during that time, it would take them 20 minutes just to get back to the district.
Not all the money is going to this new building. The Aurora and Donald stations will receive seismic upgrades, so they will be prepared if an earthquake strikes.
Our primary concern with this bond measure is that it could be salt in old wounds that havent yet had the chance to heal. We are, of course, referring to the dissolution of the Donald Firefighters Association by the district a year ago. While we understand the benefit of having one association serving the districts area, rather than two, the merger upset a few longtime volunteers in Donald and sparked what appears to be an ongoing feud.
While there is, perhaps, some truth in the idea that governing bodies of any size will always encounter opposition from somewhere, the divisions here seem to go much deeper, as evidenced by the voter pamphlet arguments and even vandalism this measure has provoked (which have, in turn, elicited litigation and criminal complaints). Such behavior does not typically accompany routine ballot measures, and it especially pains us to see it in our area, where we place high value on cooperation and collaboration.
District officials have told us that they intend to seek reconciliation with their Donald-area opponents, and we urge them to treat this promise with the utmost seriousness. These individuals are also community leaders, and many of them were even volunteer firefighters themselves. Surely, these two parties can find common ground.
We find this bond measure well-planned, reasonable and necessary, but it takes more than money to build a strong community. It takes passion and dedication and, often, compromise. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Going forward, we hope the districts officials will put at least as much time and energy into unity and reconciliation as they have in planning their capital expenditures.