Modest Evergreen Fire levy worthy of your vote

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It was just 10 months ago that Evergreen Fire District voters soundly rejected a levy request to fund Evergreen Fire and Rescue’s growing needs. Next month, ballots for a revised proposal will be sent out and we strongly encourage voters to support this more modest request.

The 2018 levy proposal asked for a 70.63 mill increase, beginning at about $1.15 million and increasing by 3 percent per year into perpetuity. After the request was voted down in April, the district vowed to rework the plan and bring it back to the voters.

“We went back to the drawing board to figure out what’s palatable for the community,” Evergreen Fire Chief Craig Williams said in a recent sit-down with the Inter Lake editorial board.

Evergreen residents will find this revised proposal to be sufficient for meeting the department’s needs without overly burdening the taxpayer. The district is seeking a levy of 37.72 mills for only 10 years, without an annual increase. That would generate about $631,500 in the first year — about 54 percent of the previous request. The impact on the taxpayer would be $101.85 for a home valued at $200,000 — about $8.50 per month.

The funds will be used to update the department’s aging fleet of EMS and fire apparatus, and to raise wages for full-time EMTs and paramedics, which are currently far below industry standards.

Williams said the improved wages will help slow turnover through boosted morale and allow the department to keep a core group of experienced staff.

This is an important point for voters to consider. If you, a loved one or neighbor is in need of emergency help, wouldn’t you want well-trained, experienced first-responders on the way? Your life could depend on it.

Approximately $210,000 of the levy is designated to fund apparatus and equipment replacement. Capital improvement is a necessity in every occupation — but we’d be hard pressed to name a line of work where having reliable, functioning tools is more critical than to firefighters and EMTs.

We can’t overstate how modest this levy request is, given the population and geographical size the department serves. The district has experienced a 224 percent increase in call volume over the last decade, and with myriad new residential and commercial developments on the horizon — senior housing behind Shopko and new airport hotels — we don’t see this trend slowing.

“We’re just asking for the ability to be prepared to respond,” Evergreen Fire Trustee Jack Fallon told us. “This affects everyone who lives here or visits here.”

Voters can expect to receive mail ballots in the third week of February. These ballots should be postmarked by March 7 to assure being received by the March 12 election.

Let’s give our Evergreen first-responders the funds they need to keep our community safe.

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