Aug. 4 special election will determine future funding for growing district
CLARK COUNTY — Clark County fire District 6 hopes to increase their funding through the Aug. 4 primary and special election. They’re banking on the COVID-19 pandemic not adversely affecting the vote.
This year’s proposed levy lid lift for the district is the first since 2015, and would return the district’s levy from the depreciated $1.16 to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. As property values rise, the levy rate falls.
Fire Chief Kristan Maurer and Fire Commission Chair Brad Lothspeich will both be on two virtual meetings to be streamed live on YouTube this week and next, to answer community questions and share the district’s vision. The meetings, on July 16 and 21 will both be at 5:30 p.m. and there will be a place for real-time comments and questions.
If passed, the new funds would be primarily used for the expansion of the district’s resources with a new unit in Salmon Creek and new firefighting apparatuses district-wide. For the average homeowner in the area, which is typically a home of $350,000, the levy lift would equate to a cost of a little less than $10 a month.
“We’re not any different than any other area in Clark County and the growth is exponential right now,” Maurer said. “Over the last 10 years, our call volume has increased greatly, right about 70 percent. Just in the last year, we increased about 13 percent in call volume. We serve the community with the same staffing that we’ve had for a number of years. We need to add staffing so that we can more effectively respond to those calls, get there quicker. The more calls we get with the less staffing, the higher our response times are.”
In some cases, response times that have been kept at five minutes, can be stretched to as much as 10. This type of delay can occur, for example, if the Salmon Creek unit is already responding to a call, and the Hazel Dell unit must respond to a second call in Salmon Creek.
Though residents of the district will vote on Aug. 4, the lid lift would not go into effect for home and business owners until spring of 2021. Fire District 6 is a fairly large district in the heart of Clark County, stretching from the fairgrounds to Vancouver’s edge. The district covers Felida, Mt. Vista, Salmon Creek, Lake Shore, and Hazel Dell.
All in all, the district serves approximately 75,000 people over nearly 40 square miles.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the district has not suffered dramatically, Lothspeich and Maurer said. Nevertheless, there have been extra expenditures, they said, including supplies like personal protective equipment.
In spite of the challenges, Maurer and Lothspeich remain hopeful that the community who backed them in 2015, will do so again.
“We’re in a really great time right now where we can start looking outside the box at different response models, different apparatus to respond, to just make our services more effective,” Maurer said. “The other thing that I’m really excited about is the continued community support that we’ve had. The citizens of District 6 and the community of District 6, has always supported us overwhelmingly with these levy requests.”
Lothspeich said he is not altogether unsympathetic to the financial crisis that has paralleled COVID-19, but also believes that emergency response time will be a reason that people support the levy.
“We had to make a decision at our last meeting in March whether we were going to go forward with it or not at that point,” Lothspeich said. “We’re hoping that our citizens will look at it carefully and determine if it’s something that they can support or not. We understand that times are tough out there for people and even a $8 or $9 a month increase for some people could make a difference. But we’ve always had real good support from our community, and we decided to go forward with it and let the people decide.”
In Salmon Creek the district was able to rebuild their station there last year, with their first ever training center also being constructed right now on site. The district’s Hazel Dell station, however, is in need of upgrades and repair. Deemed as a critical building needed during a disaster by Homeland Security, the station needs to be made earthquake-proof as well.
The district, like all others, is required to operate on a maximum of 1 percent budget increase each year, with some of that being used and some being saved.
“We’re pretty conservative. We’ll probably hang on to a little bit of it in reserves so we can withstand those decreases based on the 1 percent to our budget,” Lothspeich said. “The district has never gone to the community asking for bond money outside of the normal levy to pay for apparatus. We pay for our apparatus and remodel our stations out of the dollar and 50 budget, we don’t ask the community beyond that like the schools do.”
To watch the meetings live, go to the district’s website at www.ccfd6.org.
Members of the public who are unable to attend the meetings are encouraged to contact Chief Maurer at (360) 576-1195 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Additional information can also be found on the Fire District’s website at www.ccfd6.org.