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  • Mike Grimes

Measure 10-160  On November Ballot

MEASURE 10-160 will be on the November 7th Ballet

Measure 10-160, if passed, would provide a five-year extension of the operating levy which has been in place for the last ten years. (if the measure passes, it would not increase taxes). If the levy passes, the current tax rate of 99 per $1000 of assessed property value would remain in effect. If the levy does not pass, property taxes would decrease by 99 cents per $1000.

The current operating levy was first passed in 2008, and passed again in 2012.The funds raised under this levy have been used to pay off debt from the building of stations and apparatus purchases. Prior to the levy our first out ambulance was staffed with a Paramedic, five days a week, with week-ends covered by volunteer basic or intermediate EMTs only. The levy has allowed us to add one full-time Firefighter / Paramedic and provide funding to hire part-time Paramedics which gives us 24/7/365 Paramedic staffing of our first out ambulance. The levy has also enabled us to replace pieces of equipment in need of replacement such as (2) Engines, (2) water Tenders, (2) Brush Units, (1) Rescue, (3) Ambulances, and (1) Utility Vehicle. Additionally, several smaller ticket items have been purchased by using the funds raised under this levy.

The levy has raised funds to respond to emergencies with trained, certified, and equipped personnel. The levy has also resulted in changes in the ISO (insurance services office) rates. ISO rates the fire departments’ ability to respond to fires on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being best and 10 being no fire response) based on training, equipment/facilities, staffing, water supply systems, and dispatching system. It then provides that information to insurance companies for them to set premiums. Our 2016 ISO audit showed a significant improvement, over previous ratings, in the areas of the district more than 1000 feet from a fire hydrant, but within 5 miles of a station (due primarily to our demonstration of ability to maintain fire flows of 250 gallons per min. for two hours by water tender shuttle). This areas rating has changed from a 9 to 5. This could result in a reduction of the “fire” portion of policy premiums of 40-50%, depending on your insurer.

Why an operating levy?

The district took over operations of the ambulance service area previously run by the City of Drain in 1996. In the years that followed there were some changes in the way that ambulance billings were paid, primarily by Medicare and Medicaid (Oregon Health Plan). These Federal and State agencies, to control their costs, changed the rules and lowered the amount they would pay for ambulance service by 30-70%. Ambulance or fire response must be prepared, to respond to both scheduled and unscheduled events. A substantial amount of the cost of providing ambulance response involves being prepared for calls that are unscheduled, and that cost has been paid by increasing ambulance billing rates, until the reduced payment of billings by multiple agencies made it unrealistic. The District then chose to defer replacement of vehicles and equipment to offset this budget shortfall. The District has been working to find a long-term solution to the billing issue with statewide and national organizations that are highlighting the extra cost to rural agencies which have been impacted by these changes. While there has been progress in this area, at this point it has not led to an increase in funding. Ten years ago, the Board of Directors recognized that the deferring of capital equipment purchases was not sustainable, and they referred the operating levy to the voters.

Isn’t there a private ambulance service in Douglas county which operates on billing alone?

Yes, Bay Cities operates as a contract service to Douglas Co. Fire Dist. #2 largely in the core area of Roseburg and surrounding areas including Sutherlin, Myrtle Creek, and others. They also operate non-emergency and inter-facility transfer ambulances in this higher population area which to at least some degree are scheduled events which serve to create greater revenue per unit working and allows some surge potential in covering 911 emergencies, again lowering the cost to be ready. We do not believe that our ambulance service area would be best served by this model.

The District has identified needs that are essential, and should be addressed in a timely manner. Our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, which are vital to the safe operation in hazardous atmospheres, are in need of replacement. This technology is obsolete, and to return to compatibility with neighboring departments, which allows for safer mutual aid operations, we recommend upgrading to a high-pressure system. Replacement of our heart monitors/defibrillators is essential and must be done in a timely manner. Firefighting turnouts and other safety equipment mandated by OSHA regulations have increased in cost, and decreased in life span. These are among a group of identified needs for equipment.

The district is served by a full-time FF/Paramedic (Chief), full-time FF/ EMT (Asst. Chief), 2 full-time FF/Paramedics, a part-time Office Manager, a part-time Training Officer, casual part-time Paramedics, and Volunteer FFs and EMTs. We are continuously looking for volunteers for either the fire or EMS side. The Board of Directors, Staff and Volunteers of North Douglas Co. Fire and EMS have sought and applied for various Federal, State, and local grant opportunities and have received several over the past 10 years and this effort will continue. If the levy is not passed, staff reductions would occur and equipment purchases would be deferred. We ask that you consider this measure and we encourage any inquiries for additional information or clarification.

“This information was reviewed by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office for compliance with ORS 260.432”

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