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Fire services target of Jacksonville levy request

JACKSONVILLE ' The city will ask voters Nov. 5 to fund a five-year, &

36;2.8 million levy that would create a self-sustaining fire department no longer supported by city funds.

In addition to creating a perpetual trust fund to support operations, the levy would pay for an additional firefighter and engine and supplement construction of a new station, said City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen.

It is a levy that is targeted to be a one-time proposal so we won't be back in five years, said Wyntergreen. The trust fund will position the fire department so it will be able to create contractual income (with neighboring communities).

The levy would increase taxes by &

36;2.60 per &

36;1,000 of assessed property value, or between &

36;390 to &

36;520 annually on &

36;150,000 to &

36;200,000 homes.

If the levy passes, the city will reallocate the fire department's portion of the city's property tax money into the police budget.

If it does not pass, Mayor Jim Lewis has said the city may have to consider annexing into a rural fire district.

Tracy Shaw, Jacksonville fire chief since 1996, said the city has hired a consulting firm to help the fire department determine how it might generate more income by serving outlying areas.

We're having them evaluate us as to our ability to provide some firefighting support to neighboring communities, said Shaw.

The fire department currently has 20 volunteer members who are headed by Shaw, who is salaried. The proposed levy would pay for an additional full-time firefighter/mechanic.

At present, the station maintains three fire trucks, one brush truck and one command vehicle. Wyntergreen said two of the fire trucks are outdated and will be sold as surplus as soon as possible.

Ultimately, if the levy passes, in addition to the brush truck and command vehicle, we will end up with two fire trucks, said Wyntergreen.

Shaw said the city is reviewing three options for the fire station.

The first two include revamping the old station house or completely rebuilding a new station on its existing site, said Shaw. The third involves building a new station on one of two city-owned properties, on Highway 238 or at the corner of Fourth and Main streets, he added.

The Jacksonville Fire Department was formed in 1883. According to Wyntergreen, it is one of the oldest in the state.

Ballots will be mailed Oct. 18 and must be returned to the Jackson County Elections Office by 8 p.m. Nov. 5.

Sanne Specht is a free-lance writer living in Rogue River. Reach her at .