The Lake Ozark Fire Protection District board voted unanimously to again seek voter approval for a general obligation bond issue.  The issue was narrowly defeated in April with extremely low voter turnout

The Lake Ozark Fire Protection District board voted unanimously to again seek voter approval for a general obligation bond issue.  The issue was narrowly defeated in April with extremely low voter turnout.  Since the election, the board has received extensive input from the community indicating support for the proposed projects.   In response, the board has revised the ballot and prepared a more detailed breakdown of the proposed expenditures.  On May 17, the board approved the final ballot language and officially places the issue on the August 7 ballot.

“The message from the community is that they support this district and want us to have the equipment and facilities that we need, but they want us to do a good job of explaining what the bond money will be used for and how that will help them,” said Board President Charlie Kempf. “Our needs haven’t changed, so we need to do a better job of educating our voters.”

The issue would raise $5.355 million and require a estimated property tax increase of 8.8 cents. Unfortunately, the Missouri Statutes prohibit the district from placing the 8.8 cents on the ballot itself. 

“We heard from some voters that they wanted to see the levy amount on the ballot, and we tried to make that happen,” said Fire Chief Mark Amsinger, “but the district’s attorney said that we can’t do that within the statutory requirements for the ballot.  We can provide the information in all our materials, but legally it won’t appear on the ballot itself.”

Although the projects to be funded have not changed, the district hopes that the changes in the information provided to voters will make the difference.  “This is a capital facilities plan that will take the district through the next 15 to 20 years, matching the repayment period of the bonds.  I don’t think that many of our voters realize that this district hasn’t had a capital facilities bond issue for 22 years.  These funds will help us improve response times and replace equipment that no longer meets new regulations,” explained Kempf.

“The reality is that to ensure adequate response and response times in life and death situations, we need to upgrade our existing equipment and replace the existing fire station with an updated station in the current location which is on Welsh Road in the part of the district seeing the most residential growth – the North Shore area,” said Board Member Ed Dobson.  Much of the standard firefighting equipment is intended to be rotated, generally in primary usage for 7 years, then in secondary usage, and then rotated out after 14 years of use.  The Lake Ozark firefighters have some equipment that is still in primary usage at the 20 year mark and beyond.  Additionally, the requirements on equipment such as self-contained breathing apparatus and radios have changed, and the department needs new equipment that complies with these requirements.

The bond issue would restore the same debt service levy that the district had in 2006 and use those funds to construct the North Shore station, provide for new equipment and vehicles on the district’s 15 and 20 year master capital needs plan.  These improvements would help to maintain or improve the district’s ISO rating. That score for the district determines rates for homeowner’s insurance for all residents in the district. Four years ago the district improved its rating to Class 3 inside the city limits and Class 4 outside the city limits. District residents saw a decrease in home owner’s insurance premiums as a result.

“As our call volume and response times have increased in recent years, we have been able to maintain the rating,” said Assistant Chief Matt Birdsley.  “We can’t maintain it indefinitely without upgrading our facilities and equipment.  “The Headquarter Station is 22 years old and needs some basic renovations.  Our firefighters need better lifesaving equipment, and we are fortunate to be in a position to accomplish all of that, and provide for the department’s capital needs for the next 15-20 years with only 8.8 cents from our taxpayers.  The issue has the potential to benefit every resident in the district no matter where they live.”

Funds from the ballot issue can’t be used for pay raises, general operations or providing unnecessary amenities for the district.