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Special Fire District … Joint subcommittee meeting of 9/22

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Hazeldell’s logo is emblazoned on one of their fire trucks. Herald photo

By GARY CARL/for The Herald  —  On Thursday. September 22nd, The Special Fire District Joint Sub-committee met at the Oakridge fire station.  Attendance was live as well as by Zoom.  The sub-committee consisted of Skip Baker and John Milandin from Hazeldell Rural Fire District. Kelly Packard and Mayor D’Lynn Williams represented Westfir, and Mayor Chrissy Hollett and Jan Hooker from Oakridge.

This Sub Committee was primarily concerned with whether to retain the services of Mr. Steve Able, a consultant for the evaluation of Special Fire Districts.  Once the hiring of Mr. Able was approved, the sub-committee passed a motion made by Skip Baker to add three citizen members to this committee from each community:  Hazeldell, Westfir, and Oakridge.  Committee applications will be available on the Oakridge city’s website.

A paid consultant

Payment for Mr. Abel’s services was discussed. Chrissy Hollett said that the Oakridge city council had approved $10,000. for a consultant’s study. D’Lynn “Williams stated that Westfir had $2,000 to contribute.  No one from Hazeldell commented.  While there was no definitive discussion of Mr. Abel’s fee, apparently this seemed to be sufficient because Mr. Able remained on the call, answered questions, and generally continued to contribute to the conversation.

Louis Pokorny asked whether the costs for forming a Special Fire District would increase his taxes to the point he could no longer afford to live in his home?  The short answer is that there is a “cap” on the amount of money that taxpayers can be taxed and once that cap is reached, no further tax increase is allowed.  The term “compression” was used which this writer admits that he does not fully understand. An explanation of compression, as it relates to taxation, can be found on the Oregon Department of Revenue’s website https://www.oregon.gov.

How will your insurance be affected?

There was discussion regarding ISO ratings and what they mean to homeowners.  The ISO or Insurance Services Office is an organization that collects statistical data, promulgates rating information, and files information with state regulators on behalf of insurance companies that purchase its services.  This is important to you, the homeowner, because it determines the amount of money you will pay for your homeowner’s fire insurance… or if you can get homeowner’s fire insurance at all!  The logical question then becomes: will a Special Fire District improve ISO ratings and thereby lower your insurance costs?  The answer is… Maybe.  A special fire district by itself does not guarantee better ISO ratings.  There are numerous other factors involved and this report does not cover that information.

Additional taxes by the public

What we do know is that there is a limited amount of money available to provide for emergency services. *  Apparently, very little, if any, more revenue can be generated through taxation because of “compression”.  So, to a casual observer forming a special fire district begins took like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  However, our community leaders seem committed to the hiring of Mr. Able.  It will be interesting to learn what $10,000 of Oakridge’s tax money buys us.

*Emergency Services includes ambulance and EMT. This has historically been an untenable cost for the City of Oakridge.

Gary Carl is a retired judge of the Lane County Justice Court. He currently lives with his partner, Lynda Kamerrer & their cat, Lucy. Gary can be reached at [email protected] Gary Carl photo

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