Boone County Fire Protection District voters approved a $6 million bond issue Tuesday that will finance the purchase of new firefighting equipment, upgrades to fire stations and preliminary work toward the replacement of two stations.
Voters in the district that covers much of the county approved the bond issue by a vote of 2,818 to 464, or 85.9% to 14.1%.
Approval of the bond issue means the fire district’s property tax levy will remain at 25 cents per $100 assessed valuation. That will cost the owner of a $200,000 house $95 per year.
Fire district board member Bill Watkins was pleased with the result.
“Honestly, we need to thank the voters for their support and their understanding. This is one of the most unique elections I have ever been involved with because of COVID-19,” Watkins said. “Every time I have done ballot issues, we did it face-to-face and we talked to people. We answered questions in person, something we were not able to do this year.
“Next, we need to thank the volunteers, as they are really the ones that make the group what it is,” Watkins said. “’A helping hand.’ That’s our motto. They sold the bond issue, they perform day in and day out, and they provide the service.”
Assistant Fire Chief Gale Blomenkamp also praised the district’s volunteers.
“Obviously we are excited, and we appreciate all the support,” he said, adding that Tuesday’s vote was step one in a planned 10-year process with five bond issues. The next will come in two years.
About $1.2 million of this bond issue’s proceeds will be spent to buy land and design replacements for Station No. 8 on Route K and Station No. 5 in Prathersville, and to build a storm shelter at Station No. 12 in east Columbia. If there is any money left over, that would go toward site work on the properties for the new stations. Construction would be financed by another bond issue.
The new replacement stations would be near the existing stations, which would keep operating while the new ones are being built. The district needs to buy property because the sites of the existing stations aren’t large enough to accommodate new ones.
The new stations would have significantly bigger bedrooms with lofts and space for a couch and perhaps a TV. They also would have larger kitchens and bathrooms, as well as more spacious common areas and larger training rooms.
The district plans to spend almost $4.8 million of the bond proceeds to buy five new fire engines, four new tankers and five new brush trucks.
Blomenkamp told the Missourian for a previous story that some vehicles in the district’s fleet are more than 20 years old and need to be replaced because they lack technological advancements that make firefighting more effective. Older trucks also cost more to maintain compared with newer trucks.
The new fire engines would be equipped with systems that inject both foam and compressed air into the water stream, significantly reducing water use, which is helpful in rural areas that lack easy access to fire hydrants.
Ultimately, 14 of the district’s 15 stations will get a new vehicle if voters approve the bond issue. The only exception is Station No. 12, which was equipped with a new brush truck and fire engine in 2014.
It will be a year or a little longer before new fire trucks are delivered.