New 'Forest' Fire Protection Fees Questioned

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Tue, March 26 2013 at 5:00 PM, Updated: Tue, March 26 2013 at 5:13 PM

Some Klamath Falls South Suburban residents are upset about paying 'forest land' and 'grazing' rates for fire protection...and they took their concerns to the Klamath County Commissioners today.

Butch Kennedy is now paying 67 dollars a year for fire protection to the Oregon Department of Forestry, even though he lives in a residential neighborhood...

"I'm already paying 228 dollars to District #1 for fire protection."  Notes Kennedy.  "And if you look at the area around here, I don't live in a forest."

Some say that amounts to double-taxation.

"We're just a well that people are dipping into every time they have a budget crunch."  Testified Connie Carvalho.  "I'm a little tired of paying for services that we don't get."

The Oregon Department of Forestry says the new charges reflect changes in land use, and more accurate mapping.

"The last major review of the classifications was in the early 1970's."  Noted Randall Baley of the ODF.  "And with the current technology and data, this is allowing us to go through the whole entire county to help each other out."

Public meetings were held in January, and 16 thousand letters were mailed out in Klamath County to explain the new assessments...but Butch Kennedy was one of many who just threw the letter away...

"I didn't pay any attention to it, because I don't own any private forest."

The concerns resonate with Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum, who's also paying a new assessment...

"We need to dispel the notion that taxpayer dollars are endless."

The commissioners may ask state forestry to reconsider some of those classifications.

But for now, Butch Kennedy will pay forest, and residential costs for fire protection.

 Here's a link to the Oregon Department of Forestry page on forest land classification in Klamath County, complete with maps:  www.oregon.gov/odf/Pages/field/kl/KlamathCountyForestlandClassification.aspx 

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About the Author

Lyle Ahrens

KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's.  He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.

Lyle's job history is quite colorful.  He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand.  A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer.  In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.

Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.  "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain.  Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".

When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.

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