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Grants Pass looks at ideas for municipal fire district

GRANTS PASS, Ore.– It’s still an idea according to city council members but if a municipal fire district is approved it could help not just the City of Grants Pass, but the county as well.

During a city council meeting Monday, an ad hoc committee was appointed to look into the feasibility of a municipal fire district.

“the discussion of a fire district has been going on for a couple years because it’s something you just don’t do over night,” said Councilor Roy Lindsay.

While the idea was set aside last year to focus on the recent public safety levy, the city is back to discussing the possibility of a fire district. However, there has been no formal proposal brought up according to councilors. It’s merely an idea still.

Right now, fire services in the city are provided by the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety. Creating a fire district would change that which is why the city is taking its time making a decision.

“It’s part of the city government, it’s a department in the city, part of public safety,” said Lindsay. “Whereas if it’s formed as a district it has it’s own board, it has it’s own tax rate. It’s entirely separate from the city.”

Another reason for deliberation is funding. The current supplemental levy costs homeowners $1.76 per thousand dollars of their home’s assessed value. That along with the public safety levy cover the most of the cost of the department of public safety.

“Right now all of the property taxes in the city go to public safety. Police and fire,” said Lindsay. “Then because those two sources are not quite enough, we have to draw from the general fund a little bit too.”

But if the district were to become it’s own entity, it wouldn’t need to draw from the city any longer. Back in 2016, the city learned a levy supporting a fire district would likely cost around $2.10 per thousand dollars. If the council wishes to move forward with the fire district, that amount could replace the current supplemental levy of $1.76 and support the full cost of the fire district.

According to the city, that value might actually be lower as it reevaluates the numbers but it could also stay the same in order to ensure full coverage of the municipal fire district.

Some city councilors were concerned about those numbers but Councilor Lindsay believes it’s necessary for services.

“The people want the services,” he said. “So if they want the services, they have to pay for them. It’s that simple.”

However, all councilors agreed the decision should only be made after careful consideration and time.

“We want a harmonious, steadfast, easy transition,” said Lindsay. “If you’re pushed up against the wall for time-wise, things can get kind of complicated.”

Lindsay says voters will make the ultimate decision whether to replace the current levy to fund a fire district. The ad hoc committee in the meantime will work on ideas for the fire district and present those to the council in June.

 

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