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Fire District $3.5M bond proposal to go to voters in August

"We have gone this far without having to ask for help but now we have to."

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Whatcom County Fire District 7 Fire Chief Larry Hoffman said the fire district will be asking voters to approve a $3.5-million capital improvement bond issue on the Primary Election ballot in August.

Bond revenue would be used as follows according to documents provided by WCFD7.

  • Upgrade 1982 water tender currently in front line use. It is 37-years-old and should have been replaced 12 years ago. Cost to upgrade is $375,000.
  • Upgrade 1990 Pierce pumper truck (aka fire engine) currently in front line use. It is 29-years-old and should have been replaced 4 years ago. Cost to upgrade is $575,000. This unit is not eligible to refurbish due to its design.
  • Refurbish 2 1997 and 1 1998 pumper trucks currently in front line service. These pumpers are 21- and 20-years-old and are nearing the end of their life cycle. These pumpers can be refurbished for approximately half the cost of purchasing new. Cost to upgrade the 3 units is $1,005,000 (cost to purchase 3 new pumpers would be nearly $1.8 million dollars).
  • Upgrade/refurbish two aid units. 1 is a 2000 and 1 is a 2005 box type ambulance. These units are eligible to have new chassis replacements and will extend the life of them for another 10 years. Cost to upgrade/refurbish is $300,000.
  • Upgrade 2 initial attack vehicles (brush fire trucks). These vehicles are both over 36-years-old and do not meet current standards or needs. Cost to upgrade 2 units is $200,000.
  • Upgrade 60 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). The SCBAs were purchased using a grant 14 years ago. Bottles containing breathing air have a life span of 15 years. These bottles will be out of service in 2020. The breathing apparatus protect firefighters when they enter hazardous atmosphere. They are old and are beginning to require more maintenance to make them last their expected 15 year life cycle. Cost to upgrade is $600,000.
  • Upgrade current portable radios. Presently, we have 80 portable radios that were purchased 19 years ago. They require constant maintenance and generally are worn out. These radios are a firefighter’s lifeline when they are in a hazardous situation. They typically have a life span of 10 years. Cost to replace is $100,000.

The same documents say options to seeking a bond or in the event the bond is not approved include:

  • Funding upgrades/purchase of apparatus and safety equipment out of limited reserve funds or the operating budget
  • Closing stations in outlying areas which would result in increased response times
  • Eliminate special operations such as public education, fire prevention and community outreach
  • Reduction in force through attrition to meet the capital needs of the district

The bond issue would be repaid over 15 years. The levy rate has been estimated at $0.07 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. The cost for a property assessed at $350,000 would be approximately $24.50 per year at that rate.

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WCFD7 acquired 2 pumper trucks in 2017 to replace a 1986 Pierce Arrow and a 1980 Seagrave. The new trucks are being leased over 10 years with a $1 buy out at the end of the lease according to Hoffman.

Property owners currently pay a property levy tax that covers ongoing fire district operations and payroll costs. While levy revenues can be used for capital improvements, the amount they can be increased each year is capped at 1% due to a 2001 law. This has meant not having excess money in their budgets to set aside for these types of expenditures, Hoffman said in a phone interview. “We have gone this far without having to ask for help but now we have to.”

The district’s bond issue proposal would, like the recent school district’s bond issue proposal, require a super majority of 60%+ to be approved and at least 40% of the number of voters that voted in the last General Election need to cast votes.

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**In an effort to educate the community about the programs of the FCSC, we will be doing a series of weekly posts to highlight each program and share details.**

Week 1: Did you know that the FCSC has a brand new program? The Ferndale Community Utilities Fund launched May 15th, 2020. The purpose of this temporary program is to help neighbors who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 pay their City of Ferndale utility bill.

Neighbors who need help can apply via our website (link is below). Be sure to check out the eligibility requirements and then click the link to the application form. Neighbors who want to help can make a donation via the same link. To date, we have raised an incredible $10,000! Through the generous support of the community and grants from the Whatcom Community Foundation and the Mary H Storer Foundation, we have reached our fundraising goal. We will use these funds to help Ferndale households with their June and August water bills.

Please help us spread the word so we can ease the struggle for some during this challenging time. And THANK YOU for your generous support and care for your fellow Ferndale residents.

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5694 2nd Ave - (360) 380-2200
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  1. Would be all for it – providing appropriate community oversight is put in place to provide for transparency and adequate taxpayer representation on our investment. Opaque tax regimes always end up screwing us over and picking our pockets, until all we have left there is lint…

  2. Again, government agencies holler “the sky is falling, we need money”. School system, water system and so forth.

    But nobody ever seems to answer the question “How did it get so bad to begin with?” What about all the money paid in the past? Where did it go? Who made the decisions? Did they make good decisions? Were the decisions transparent or murky? Was the taxpayer’s interest put FIRST?

    Aron T says it very nicely – “Opaque tax regimes always end up…”.

    While I understand the Fire District has a good reputation, there still needs to be assurances that the department has been run efficiently and will be run efficiently with a clear demonstration of how they will eliminate wasteful practices BEFORE THE TAXPAYER COUGHS UP YET MORE MONEY.

    Convince us and we will help. Simple, ain’t it?

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