COLUMBIA — The Southern Boone County Fire Department is proposing a $2 million bond to renovate and enhance its equipment and training facilities.
The bond proceeds would be used for three specific goals: to establish a training facility, to remodel the district fire station in Ashland and to buy a new fire truck. The bond issue appears on the April 3 ballot.
The fire district is looking to acquire a new training facility that will be larger, more effective and closer to the Ashland fire station, district board President Jim Cunningham said. Sometimes, the firefighters train in the Columbia Fire Department's burn building, which takes firefighters out of the district. That can be a problem if a fire or any other emergency happens.
The fire district has a contract to buy 3.25 acres and a building in Ashland that are owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation. If the bond passes, the money will be used to renovate and equip this building for training.
Renovating a building for training would carry about half the cost of building a new one, Cunningham said. He believes it would be the best and cheapest option.
Cunningham also noted that weather doesn't always permit outdoor training; an indoor facility would allow classes at any time.
The facility will also allow more room to store training props and keep them in good condition, Fire Chief Roger Jaeger said. As it stands, the district has to replace props every two years because of the damage they sustain from being outside.
"This is the first phase of it that could last us up to 30, 40, even 50 years," Jaeger said.
Remodeling the station
In addition to a training facility, the fire district also wants to remodel the 17-year-old fire station in Ashland to add more rooms for the firefighters who stay there.
The station now has three rooms for firefighters, but they are very small, Jaeger said. The fire district wants to add more rooms that are larger for firefighters to live in as well as additional office space. More residences would allow for faster response times to emergencies.
Because all the firefighters are volunteers, they also maintain regular jobs. If more can stay in the station, they can respond to an emergency within three minutes. If tones go off while they're all at home, though, they have to respond from there, delaying the response time.
The fire district also wants to add on an extra bay for a new fire truck.
New fire truck
The fire district wants to replace its first-response fire engine, which is 20 years old.
Last year alone, maintenance costs on this truck reached $18,000, which Cunningham noted is 7.2 percent of the district's annual budget. That's too much for a district that operates on such a tight budget, he said.
The fire district wants to buy a new truck that uses foam, which can fight more fire with less water and also causes less damage to homes.
Financial impact of the bond
Approval of the bond issue would also be a great deal for taxpayers, Cunningham said, because they will pay a lot less money for these services than they would in other districts.
Right now, the fire district is retiring a bond issue from 2003, in which the owner of a $100,000 home pays $77 per year in property taxes. If the new bond issue is approved, the same homeowner would pay about $75 per year.
"We didn't seek as much money as we could have," Cunningham said. "We just went for the amount of money we needed to reduce tax levies needed to pay the bond."
Cunningham said if the bond issue wasn't approved, property taxes would decrease more than if the bond was passed, but he wasn't sure about the size of the decrease.