By Rodney Dial
June 15, 2010
Of the little time we have left after working all week, the last thing I want to do is spend my time writing letters and speaking up regarding taxation. However, it seems like every time I turn around some group is not happy with what they have, and wants something bigger, better, and others to pay for their vision.
I felt pretty good earlier this week that at least the borough was beginning to listen to the taxpayers for once, and not just those who want something. I thought I might actually be able to give the letter writing a rest for a while and focus on something else.
That was until I received a flyer from the North Tongass Fire Department.
If you live anywhere north of the City limits you need to be aware of the following:
The North Tongass Fire and EMS Board of Directors is proposing purchasing the old Ketchikan Welding Building and property at 10.5 mile North Tongass Hwy to create a new fire station, called Station #7.
The goal of this project would be to create a new station with a 100-150k gallon water storage tank for firefighting. It would effectively increase the flow rate of water available to fight fires in the area around the station.
Noble goals for surewhat about the other side of the story?
The cost to purchase the building and land is $800,000
The cost to outfit this property as a Fire Station and water storage facility is unknown, or at least was not listed in the informational packet I received.
Construction of a new station (7) would be only three miles to the north of existing station 6, and 2.6 miles south of the newly constructed station 8.
Currently North End Residents pay 1.7 mills and a $100 yearly structure fee for fire services.
The board is indicating that to pay for a new fire station would require one of three options,
1. Raise the mill levy,
I have said for years if you get more than three people in a room to talk about any issue they will eventually decide to raise taxes. (Big sigh)...here we go again.
I have a few questions that I would respectfully like Chief Hull to answer so that the citizens can make an accurate risk/benefit assessment of this proposal. Those questions are:
How many house fires has NTFD responded to in the last five years? Only actual house fires in NTFD area, please do not include instances that were "false alarms", extinguished before your arrival, burn piles, etc. True house fires only (as a layman would classify them), which should provide a basis for the actual need to increase water flow rate capacity.
Of the above numbers, the number that would have seen a "significantly' (not merely speculative) better outcome had station 7 been in existence. For example, it seems reasonable that a new station 7 would provide no measurable benefit for those fires north of, and near station 8, or south of and around station 6.
If the primary goal is a strategically located water storage facility then why do we need another governmental building? Why not just purchase or lease a vacant lot in the area at a fraction of the price and put a few tanks on it?
Could we accomplish essentially the same benefits by increasing the water storage capabilities of station 8, and/or positioning an additional tanker at station 6?
Which is better when tanker refill rates are considered? Construction of station 7 which will only have the water it can store, used with the existing fleet of tankers, orpurchase of an additional tanker stationed at station 6 (3 miles away)? Station 6 has unlimited water resources, right?
Chief Hull, I see from your flyer that you imply that a new station (7) could improve the ISO rating and potentially lower home insurance costs. I would caution you and the board that at least one of the largest insurers in the area bases their rates on zip code, and not the ISO rating of where the home is located.
This means that homeowners in the North Tongass area who already have, or will get insurance through one of these carriers already get rates based upon the best ISO of the area which in this case is the City ISO rating. Adding a new station will not change rates for these people.
Others who have seen rate decreases from past NT ISO rating changes may have realized savings by just changing carriers. In any case we need to be clear that you are proposing a guaranteed additional expense, for an only "possible" savings for some.
Since your flyer asks for community input, here is mine:
Look for grants to either purchase a vacant lot in the same general area to be used as a water storage area only (no building), or to purchase an additional tanker to be stationed at station 6.
To the North Tongass Residents reading this, you need to speak up. If you can't take the time to at least write a letter then you have no right to complain when your taxes are raised.
Chief Hull, to you and your people thank you for your dedication. Your volunteers who risk their lives to protect the community for little to no pay are some of the finest people on the island and are true heroes.
Received June 11, 2010 - Published June 15, 2010
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