If preliminary results hold up, Fire District No. 5 will not get new fire engines and other equipment it had sought in a $1.8 million, 10-year bond measure.
In results release at 10:24 p.m. Tuesday, voters opposed the measure 3,829 to 3,493, or 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent. The district serves Talent, Phoenix and rural areas in southern Jackson County.
Bill Robertson, treasurer for Vote No on Fire Levy 15-112, was surprised by the outcome. He noted that a group in favor of the measure purchased radio ads and conducted a door-to-door campaign.
"I think people listened to the arguments," said Robertson. "Everybody on the (district) board supported it and obviously everybody in the public didn't support it."
Board Chairman Dan Gregory said the bond would have been the best option to replace the district's aging equipment.
"The other options will be more expensive overall because they are lease-purchase type of things that we can do," said Gregory.
Proponents argued that the levy was needed to replace older equipment to provide the level of service required and to ensure fire fighter safety. Opponents said the district could finance major equipment purchases within the current budget as it has done since the last bond was passed in 1980.
Under the bond measure, three new fire engines, purchased at a cost of $440,000 each, would have replaced two 1980 trucks. The district also wanted to buy a new water tender tanker truck for $247,000, new self-contained breathing apparatus equipment and three sets of vehicle-extraction equipment.
The owner of a house with an assessed value of $155,000 would have paid an average $25.11 per year.
Robertson said tough economic times may have influenced the vote.
"I heard from a few different people, 'I can't afford to buy a new truck, they don't deserve to buy a new truck,' " said Robertson.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.