The Northwest Fire Protection District has proposed two tax levy increases on the April 3, 2018 ballot. On behalf of the board of directors, board member Michael Cundiff agreed to answer a series of questions submitted by the public.

The Northwest Fire Protection District has proposed two tax levy increases on the April 3, 2018 ballot. On behalf of the board of directors, board member Michael Cundiff agreed to answer a series of questions submitted by the public.

A 23-cent increase and a 37-cent increase are proposed. That equates to an additional $0.23 per $100 of assessed valuation and a $0.37 per $100 of assessed valuation for real estate and personal property owners.

The 37-centwould sunset at 20 years, with future boards having the option of trying to renew the rate at that point with another vote of the district.

Since the establishment of the Climax Springs-based district in 1992, there have been no increases during a period of high inflation in nearly every segment of the economy, according to Cundiff. Covering parts of Camden, Benton and Hickory counties, the NWFPD currently has the lowest rate in the area.

Q What is the plan for the money, in specific what equipment are you buying?

A Levy #1 is for basic operating expenses, purchasing firefighter equipment, medical supplies and additional ongoing training.

Levy #2 – (A sunset levy)

Our engines are old (newest is 30 years old with the oldest being 36 years old) and per National Fire Protection Association, these are non-compliant. They recommend that equipment be replaced every 20 years. Under ISO (insurance requirements)we need to implement the following actions to put the District in a position to improve services and to lower insurance rates:

ISO requires one engine, one tanker and one brush truck at each station. We currently have 4 engines, and two tankers in operation. To be in compliance, immediate purchases would include one engine and three tankers which would give us a total of the required 4000-gallon water capacity at each station.

In addition, each vehicle must be outfitted with specific equipment, i.e. hoses, turbo drafts, nozzles, drop tanks, etc. To cite anticipated costs, 1000 feet of 3-inch hose costs $4500 per engine, and a new engine is approximately $300,000. When possible, quality used equipment will be purchased. In addition, by law, we must house all tankers, brush trucks and engines indoors at each station. This will require one additional bay to be added at two different stations, and replacement of an obsolete two bay station with a new three bay station. Updating three current stations would be a priority over rebuilding the new three bay station. In addition, plans also include modifications to Station 1 for a needed training facility. Next comes acquisition of appropriate equipment at each station, and this includes replacing the timeworn engines and setting up for a 20-year rotation of equipment.

Q How are you confirming that you have trained people (who are held accountable for training) to run the equipment?

A Driver and equipment training has been an on-going challenge, and as we purchase new equipment, training will continue to be a priority. NWFPD has 2 qualified and certified driver training instructors; we also utilize outside instructors for training. New equipment purchases includes mandatory training procedures by the manufacturer.

Q What do you expect the ISO rating to change to?

A This is a two-part answer. First, Stations 1, 4 & 5 could go to a rating of 8 later this year or early next year Second, once we have all five stations online, properly equipped, and hydraulic testing completed, a future ISO rating of 5 or lower could be achieved. (Source-- NWFPD ISO Report, 2017)

Q Do you know how much of a change in insurance there is when the ISO rating goes from 9 to 8?

A According to research, a minimum of 10% should be achieved. In addition, if we were to go as low as a class 5 district wide, we should see as much as a 16% savings in insurance policies. Bear in mind that we are aware that not all insurance companies use ISO. However, in the insurance market, competition will bring all rates down.

Q How do you justify that much extra money when keeping qualified trained people on the department seems to be a challenge?

A Again, this is a two-part answer.

1 – Our budget of $160,000 per year has not kept up with rising costs over the last 10 years. It has not allowed for the replacement of much-needed firefighter equipment, i.e. turnout gear, SCBA equipment, and general over all maintenance. Appropriate equipment directly relates to personnel knowing that they are adequately equipped, and proper equipment will attract more volunteers and help retain them for a longer period of time.

2– We are an all-volunteer department. As with any volunteer organization, the way we are perceived by the community is based on how the volunteers represent us and on the adequacy of the protective equipment and vehicles, and on the training of the volunteers. These additional funds will increase protection and services to our entire District.

Q How do you audit private usage of department vehicles and equipment?

A This question relates primarily to our Command vehicle (Chief’s Truck). The Chief or a designated driver is authorized to use the vehicle for department business, such as mutual aid calls, meetings with the medical director, picking up supplies, and training across district lines. Deployment records of all vehicles and equipment are documented by way of driver’s logs, and NWFPD has security cameras at each station. Maintenance logs are also kept.

Q How do you audit paying out volunteer pay on calls (for 7 example having 10 people show up to a non-injury lift assist)? These answers apply to questions 7 and 8.

A When a call out is received, volunteers who are responding confirm that they are doing so. The Chief or officer in command at the site determines if there are sufficient numbers of volunteers responding. In the event more than enough volunteers are responding, some will be called off. Each call is recorded to include who responded to the call. Volunteers are just that; many have full time jobs or operate their own businesses. To answer a call, some responders may be taking a loss on their own income. Not paid by what work they do once on a call, our volunteers are reimbursed to respond to calls at a rate of $5 to $7 per call, whether the duty involves one hour or ten. .

Q How do you make sure people who are getting paid actually did any work at the call?