Voices of the Peninsula: Proposition 4 keeps CES vehicles rolling

  • By Terry Bookey
  • Wednesday, September 30, 2015 7:34pm
  • Opinion

On October 6, 2015 when voters of the Central Emergency Services (CES) Area visit their polling place they will be asked to vote on several ballot propositions. Proposition 4 asks voters to approve general obligation bonds not to exceed four million four hundred thousand dollars ($4,400,000) for the purchase of emergency response vehicles (fire trucks and ambulances). It is expected that Proposition 4 will have an annual cost to property owners of $17.00 per $100,000 in assessed property value. Vehicles purchased through this bond proposition are for the replacement or consolidation of existing vehicles only. No additions to the current fleet are proposed.

Why should you support this bond? Several pieces of apparatus in the CES fleet are reaching the end of their useful lives and will need to be replaced in the next few years. Since the October 2013 passage of Ballot Proposition 1, which increased the residential real property tax exemption from $20,000 to $50,000, CES has seen a reduction in revenue of over $350,000 per year. Unfortunately, not only has CES experienced multi-year decreases in its revenue but it has also seen increased operational costs due to the continued, and substantial, growth in call volume. As a result, funds are insufficient for the needed contributions to the capital fund used to purchase the essential items for fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services. Additionally, commercial growth in the CES service area has rendered some apparatus incapable of meeting required fire flows, and building height increases (such as the expansion of Central Peninsula Hospital and the Kenai Peninsula College) have exceeded the reach of CES’s 75-foot aerial ladder truck.

Compounding this, CES is faced with other high cost capital needs in the near future. In 2018 the self-contained breathing apparatus (breathing packs) used by CES firefighters will be over 15 years old and will no longer meet OSHA requirements. CES has already prolonged the lifespan of this equipment once through a State of Alaska grant for parts upgrades. In addition, support for the mobile and portable radios currently used will end, as the manufacturer is no longer producing them. It is projected that the replacement cost for these two essential items alone will exceed one million dollars.

CES has taken many steps to reduce expenses. This included consolidating single function specialized apparatus into multi-function vehicles, deferring replacement of apparatus longer than expected, eliminating several vehicles from its fleet, increased recruitment and utilization of volunteer firefighters, and most dramatically, elimination of three full-time positions. CES simply cannot cut more while continuing to provide the same level of services that the community has come to expect.

Please join your friends and neighbors in supporting CES by voting YES on Proposition 4.

If you have any questions, email soldotnafirefighters@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/soldotnafirefighters

Thank you for your consideration.

— Submitted by Terry Bookey,
representing the Firefighters
of Central Emergency Services

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