Isn’t it wonderful? This brand new, shiny fire station! Wow, who ever lives near this beauty must be proud and feel safe. Matter of fact it is the one of the newest stations in Fire District 1.
Wait, what’s that? No one works here? You mean there are not any firefighters at this station? What?!? No one has ever worked from this station? What’s going on?!?
Good questions. Welcome to government illusion at its best. While the Fire District 1 does park a fire truck in this station and pays for heating and cooling to keep the station warm in the winter and cool in the summer, not one firefighter has ever been assigned to work from this fire station. Why? First, understand that the station was built as a “gift” of the Federal Government — Federal Governement grant money. The station was built between the Running Y Ranch and Ridgewater neighborhoods, two of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the county, to give the illusion of a quick and nearby fire response. Why? Because it helps keep the fire insurance rates for the well-to-do lower than they would be without this building. In other words, the Federal Government spent money (it didn’t have — they borrowed it) on a building that has never been used in order for these wealthy residents to qualify for cheaper fire insurance rates.
Second, Fire District 1 can not afford to hire firefighters for this station. So the station was built, but the department can not afford to use it. Excellent use of tax-payer dollars don’t you think? Perhaps they should be required to post a big sign out front that says, “No firefighters work here.” Now that would be some real education and honesty from government for a change.
The Illusion Continues
Just like this unused Fire District 1 fire station, ballot measure 18-104 trades on the same illusion of providing better service and more safety at additional tax payers expense. Questions that are never asked or answered include:
- How old is the current equipment? How long is it expected to last? How long should it last?
- How many fires or emergencies has District 1 failed to respond to because of current equipment?
- How many fires have there been in Fire District 1 during the past 12 months, 24 months, 60 months?
- Would the new equipment provide any significantly better response time? (In other words, what is the real world benefit for the real additional cost to tax payers).
- Why five new trucks, five new ambulances and a brand new command vehicle? Why not two of each? Why not new-used?
- Who has independently validated this request to the tax payers? Or is the Fire Chief the sole decision maker and requestor?
- Since this apparent “need” was known about for quite some time, how much has Fire District 1 set aside from their budget each year to help pay for new equipment?
- How did this question get on our ballots? Was it a citizen referendum, where 3,500+ signatures were collected, or did the County Commissioners, by edict, put it on the ballot? (If you guessed “the Commissioners did it”, you would be correct).
There are a lot of unanswered questions, and there is a reason for that. The Fire Chief does not want to answer them. It is far easier to play his violin and tug at the heart strings of well intentioned voters, than to truly justify the additional expense to tax payers for more equipment. Klamath County residents pay $1.73/$1,000 for general property tax. Fire District 1 charges over $2.50/$1,000 for their services. This means county government lives on $1.73/$1,000 but, Fire District 1, who charges much more from every property owner in their district, now needs even more money for new equipment. Huh? What did they do with the money they get without question year after year? They spent it all. Every year. Every last penny. There is no savings for equipment. Instead Fire District 1 is hoping you won’t stop and think. They hope that you will feel sorry for them and that shiny new equipment will make you feel proud and safe.
The fact is, no one will be safer if this levy passes. No one will be worse off if it doesn’t — well except for the fact the firefighters and their chief will have to live within their means. Don’t fall prey to another government illusion. If you still don’t understand, go visit the brand new fire station out by the Runny Y Ranch. Maybe then it will sink in.
Correction: October 22, 2015
The County Commissioners did not vote to put this measure on the ballot. The Fire District can put any measure on the ballot for its taxing district as long as it reimburses the county for the cost of the election.
Correction: November 2015
We were incorrect in saying that no one ever worked at the Fire Station by the Running Y Resort. For several months the station was operational until the Fire District could no longer afford to staff it. The station has been inoperable for several years now, which means the point of the story still holds true although the facts were not completely accurate. In otherwords a distinction without a difference.