July 9th Commission Packet
It seems you answered your own question about the fire department with your size of city analysis. My wife Chris brought up the suggestion that instead of a fire department, a city our size should have its own police department (also a revenue maker). In that way, we don’t have to contract out to the sheriff’s department. Just food for thought.
Nice summary of the fire department issue. One question, could we go back to a volunteer fire depatment to help alleviate costs?
The option to turn over to the county seems to be the least expensive option and it is backed up by the fact that other local communities are using it.
Other things to consider in your argument would be the fact that the assessment fee is not optional like insurance. You said “The assessment fee is for them to protect your property.” Insurance is for your own property. If you had a fire, yes they will respond to ensure the fire does not spread to your neighbors and other parts of town. The assessment fee helps to ensure a quicker response. To ensure that someone is there when the call comes in. So the argument is “HOW LONG CAN WE WAIT WHEN THERE IS A FIRE?”. Also the argument of a fee based on square footage kind of works except in the case of a small house and large, say, wooded property.
Well, I’m not sure a volunteer department is still a valid option for us. We are in the in between stage of being too big for a volunteer department and not big enough for our own department. Studies show that after a 2500 population level volunteer departments lose considerable effectiveness, but cities shouldn’t look at creating their own departments until you hit a 12,500 population level. We are at 5,000 now. So, theoretically, contracting out should have been our first step anyway.
I see your concern with the insurance analogy. It’s an interesting point. I think when it comes to fire there is a direct link between your neighbor starting a fire and you losing your property, and that linkage is so direct and immediate that we don’t give people the option. When it comes to fire, we are all in this together.
To add to that point, you asked how long can we wait if there is a fire. The flash point for a fire (the point beyond which the department will be able to save much of your house) is four minutes. The average response time for fire departments is nine minutes. So, one could make the argument that the real reason for the existence of fire departments is to keep fires from spreading to other houses and becoming a citywide disaster. This ties in with why it can’t be optional to pay into the system for fire.
I would guess that, for small houses, the assessment would be about the same that it is now. $75 is really low when it comes to fire assessment rates. The majority of cities pay well over $200. Wooded areas is an interesting idea. I haven’t considered them. Right now, most of those would fall under agricultural exemption, and so, they aren’t paying anything. If you think of what’s going on in Colorado, obviously, that’s an area of high probability for a fire.
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