|Fire district seeks funds for Deputy Chief with levy posted on 03/01/2019|
In a unanimous decision during a February meeting, the board
of directors of the Hoodland Fire District approved putting a Local Option Levy
on the May ballot to fund a Deputy Chief position. The district has lacked an
officer in that position since John Ingrao took over as Chief after Mic Eby’s
retirement at the end of 2016.
Chief Ingrao, who served as the Deputy Chief under Eby,
noted several benefits to adding a Deputy Chief, including always having three
paramedics on duty and having a second command officer to ensure proper
coverage in the district.
“It’s an issue, there’s no department that only has one
chief, except for small rural ones,” Ingrao said, adding that he would like to
retire next year. “To me, it is a matter of succession planning (and) resources
to go on multiple calls.”
The levy, set to last for five years, would have a rate of
25 cents per thousand on property in the district, resulting in a charge of
approximately $38 on a house with a valuation of $150,000. Ingrao acknowledged
that nobody wants higher taxes, but the district is unable to add the position
with the current finances.
“It’s just a healthy thing for an organization and there’s
no other way for us to get to it with the budget,” he said.
Ingrao added that after he became Chief, it was decided that
the district should go to 24-hour staffing (before then, paid staff covered the
district for 12 hours per day, leaving a hole in advanced life support
coverage). To reach that level, the Deputy Chief position was left vacant; a
plan that was intended to last for 18 months but has now stretched past two
To gauge the feasibility of a levy being passed by voters,
the board hired Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc., which conducted phone polling
in January this year. 152 voters answered a variety of questions, with the
analysis revealing 70 of those polled as likely to vote for the levy “if the
election were held today,” based on their initial reaction.
82 percent of the respondents categorized themselves as
people who “always vote,” and the same percentage have lived in the area served
by the HFD for more than 10 years. The average age of respondents was 67. 56
percent of the voters polled reported contact by themselves or a family member
with the HFD in the past year.
71 percent of the voters polled noted the HFD offered
“excellent service,” while 61 percent saw the district as being efficient with
Should the levy be approved by voters in the May election,
Ingrao noted the position is unlikely to be filled from within due to the
number of classes and certifications required.
Ingrao added that it has been more than 20 years since the
district asked the community to approve a levy.
Ingrao plans on presenting the levy to local service
agencies, faith-based groups and other organizations in the coming months.
By Garth Guibord/MT