If voters say yes to a 15-cent increase, the Osage Beach Fire Protection District will add additional firefighters to respond to a growing number of calls for service. The district also plans to use a donated tract of land to build a fire tower training facility.

Editor's Note: This story has been edited to correct the majority needed to pass the levy issue proposed. It requires a simple majority, not 57 percent as previously stated.

If voters say yes to a 15-cent increase, the Osage Beach Fire Protection District will add additional firefighters to respond to a growing number of calls for service. The district also plans to use a donated tract of land to build a fire tower training facility. 

Voters will head to the polls on April 3 to vote on the increase which would raise the total levy from 59.34 cents to 74.34 cents — per $100 of assessed valuation. 

The measure must be approved by 57 percent of the voters who cast ballots on April 3. Three years ago, voters in the district turned down a levy increase. 

Osage Beach Fire Chief Jeff Dorhauer said the tax levy proposal has been under discussion for more than a year. 

“The district’s current total levy is 59.34 cents and has changed very little since 2001 when the levy was set at 59.00 cents,” Dorhauer said. “The district believes this is a levy proposal based on need and has developed this plan based on historic growth in assessed valuation, budget, and call load over the last 17 years.”

During those 17 years, growth and development within the fire district has increased the need for service. In 2001, OBFPD responded to 825 compared to 2,136 at the end of 2017.  

“Each year as our response to emergency calls increase more and more stress is placed on our current staffing models. In 2017 the district saw close to 300 times in which we were running two or more consecutive calls for service,” Dorhauer said. 

With only two manned engines on duty each day, he said they are seeing more and more incidents where they have to rely on outside assistance to respond to these calls, putting a strain on their coverage. While they can’t eliminate Mutual Aid with this increase, Dorhauer said the district does have to make sure that on the average day, with the average amount of calls for service, that they can handle calls without burdening other districts.

Projections do not show the upward trend changing and this increasing call load will require more staffing to answer the community’s needs, he said.  

The district currently has a total of 31 employees, 24 of which are firefighters. Crews alternate every 48 hours with eight manning each shift at the two stations the district staffs. Osage Beach Fire also has a crew of 15 volunteers. 

Aside from staffing, the district wants to improve training. If the levy passes, the district would be in a position to move forward with construction of a fire tower on a piece of property that has been donated adjacent to Station 2 off State Route KK. 

“This is critical since at this time we have no avenue for any realistic training to keep the skills up of our staff. This tower will be used for aerial training, hose advancement, ladder, ventilation, standpipes, interior search, rope rescue, downed firefighter and much more,” Dorhauer said. 

The district is required to conduct live training by the National Fire Protection Association. Currently the district has no method to do the training. 

“Many years ago we could use acquired structures but the DNR and EPA regulations make this almost impossible to do anymore,” he said.