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Wake up and smell the smoke

Jacksonville needs fire protection, and residents need to pay for it

Once again, Jacksonville residents have a choice come Nov. 2. They can assure themselves of something approaching adequate fire protection, or they can take their chances ' something they've been doing with their homes for some time now.

Local Ballot Measure 15-55 would enact a five-year local option tax to provide 24-hour coverage by the town's fire department. It would cost property owners &

36;1.06 per &

36;1,000 of assessed value, or about &

36;265 a year for the owner of &

36;250,000 home.

If the levy passes, it would be implemented only if the city's disputed public safety surcharge is overturned in court.

Here's the gamble: If the levy fails and the surcharge is thrown out, Jacksonville residents would still be without adequate fire protection. In our view, the choice is obvious. Voters should approve the levy.

Voters rejected a much larger levy ' &

36;2.60 per &

36;1,000 ' in 2002. Then a pair of levy opponents offered to help city officials find another way to raise the needed funds.

We applauded that move at the time as a breath of fresh air.

— Of course, the alternative city settled on was a &

36;15 monthly surcharge on water bills or on street addresses for those not on city water. That's considerably cheaper than either property tax proposal, but that didn't stop opponents from crying taxation without representation and challenging the surcharge in court.

It's long past time for Jacksonville residents to come to their senses and recognize that they no longer live in a sleepy little village with low property values and enough local volunteers to race to their aid when a fire breaks out. Jacksonville is now a pricey bedroom community with inadequate fire protection.

Add to that the gold rush-era buildings that give downtown its charm and attract legions of tourists, and you have the makings of a catastrophe that could rival the legendary conflagrations in the Bay Area's Oakland Hills.

Jacksonville residents need to do the responsible thing and approve Measure 15-55.

Support United Way

United Way serves one in three people in Jackson County. That's one reason we all should support the agency's annual fund drive. Here are a few more:

Foster Grandparent program, the YMCA, Girl Scouts, CASA, Children's Dental Clinic, Easter Seals, Boy Scouts, Kids Unlimited, SOASTIC, Upper Rogue Community Center, WinterSpring, the Red Cross, ARC of Jackson County, Community Health Center, Community Works, Living Opportunities, The Salvation Army, Retired Senior Volunteer Program ... .

Those are some of the dozens of local agencies that provide assistance to the most needy and most helpless in our communities. And assisting those agencies is United Way, which offers support for 48 programs at 34 local nonprofits.

This year's campaign goal is &

36;960,773 and by last week, the annual effort was already at 15 percent of that goal. Reaching the full goal is critical in a time of reduced government services and a struggling economy.

You can help meet the many needs in our communities by donating through your workplace or directly to United Way. Your piece is part of something much bigger that will make a difference in the lives of thousands in Jackson County.