TALENT — Voters in November turned down Fire District No. 5's request for funding to purchase new equipment, so the district will use a lease-purchase agreement to finance a new $450,000 fire engine.
Voters turned down a 10-year, $1.8 million bond levy request that would have provided three new engines and other equipment. The measure was defeated by a 52-48 percent margin.
While the defeat means the equipment will cost a bit more and other purchases will be put off indefinitely, at least one opponent of the November measure was pleased.
"It's pleasant to hear that they plan to stay within their budget," said Bill Robertson, a former district board member who campaigned against the bond measure.
A new engine will allow the district to move a 1995 unit out of the first-response category. The district serves Talent, Phoenix and rural areas in southern Jackson County from stations in the two cities and near Emigrant Lake.
"Everything else is still on the wish list with no real plans for being able to acquire it at least within the next three to four years," said district board President Dan Gregory.
Since a 1980 levy passed, the district has financed other equipment purchases from within its budget.
That approach has caused the district to fall behind in updating, district officials said during the levy campaign. Two 1980 engines are still in service.
The November measure would have funded three new engines, a water tender tanker truck, three sets of vehicle extraction equipment and new self-contained breathing apparatus gear.
District budget committee and board plans call for purchasing the engine over a 10-year period beginning with the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. Delivery of new trucks usually takes nine to 12 months following an order, said Fire Chief Dan Marshall, who expects to have the truck by spring 2014.
"One of the objects of the bond measure was to try to catch up," said Marshall. "What lease-purchase has allowed you to do is to go incrementally. It costs a little more in interest and we got behind in the equipment purchases."
Self-contained breathing equipment acquisition is budgeted at $17,000 in the next fiscal year. The bond measure would have provided $99,000 for that equipment.
Several grant applications to upgrade equipment are still pending, said Marshall. They include requests to federal and state agencies for extraction equipment, breathing apparatus and an engine to help protect structures in the case of a wildfire.
Declining property assessments have held down district tax revenue, leading to tight budgets in recent years, says Marshall. He sees the 2015-16 fiscal year as the next opportunity to purchase another new engine.
Sunsetting of the Talent Urban Renewal District in 2016 will bring more tax revenues to the district, said Robertson. His research indicates the fire district would have had another $144,000 this year if there were no urban renewal district.
"Some of our existing engines over the course of the next three years will be paid off," said Gregory.
Both Gregory and Marshall said another bond levy could be presented to voters.
"We are still looking at all different kinds of options, what we might do down the road," said Gregory. "An election is one of the options that's still open."
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.