Boone County voters passed a referendum to expand the Boone County Fire Protection District board to five members from three Tuesday. They also elected Shelly Dometrorch to the board to replace 12-year member Myrtle Rapp, who is retiring.
On Tuesday, 5,711 people voted on the ballot issue. Eighty-five percent of voters supported expansion of the board. Voter turnout for the election of a new board member was 5,620 people. Dometrorch slid past her opponent Don Farris with 51.8 percent of the votes. Farris collected 48.2 percent.
The expansion of the board won’t go into effect until April 2008, when voters will elect the two additional board members. Of the two elected members, the person with the most votes will serve a term of six years while the person with the second highest number of votes will serve four years. After the 2008 election, all members of the board will serve six-year terms.
David Griggs, who replaced former board member Willis Smith after Smith died in January, will also decide at that time whether to run as an incumbent or leave his position with the board, opening the possibility that three new board members could be elected in 2008.
The question of expanding the fire district board was first raised last fall after months of public discussion on the issue. It was initially pushed by members of the community, including the group Concerned Citizens of Boone County.
Board member John Gordon said he and Rapp approved the referendum because the majority of the public was in favor of an expansion and because he thinks the change will add diversity to the board.
Some voters expressed similar opinions on Tuesday.
“They definitely needed five members,” said Gary Jackman at the polls at Boone County Fairgrounds. “It was just too close-knit.”
Bill Ashlock, an accountant with Boone Electric Cooperative, also voted for the board expansion.
“I think the fire board needs to be expanded,” he said. “It was too easy for a collusion. I think it was too easy to show favoritism. ... if we can just get it to five people, there’ll be less finger-pointing.”
Until the referendum goes into effect in 2008, Dometrorch said she has some changes she wants to implement while on the board. One of her priorities is to put control of the fire district back in the hands of its board members.
“I would like to assure the board becomes a lot stronger and authoritative,” she said. “It needs to take charge of the district; that hasn’t been the case for a long time.”
Dometrorch said that too much power has been given to the fire district’s administration. She said she supports the expansion of the board, saying more members would promote deeper debate and better communication.
Dometrorch also said she supports a decrease in salaries among some members of the district and wants to see a long-term plan for the rotation of fire equipment so County firefighters are not using outdated equipment.
A lieutenant with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department for 15 years, Dometrorch said her natural interest in public safety motivated her to run for the board. She lives in Rocheport.