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Spring Valley Fire Department will ask voters this spring to support a referendum for a $550,000 bond to replace a 49-year-old fire truck.
On April 1, taxpayers will vote on the bond to allow the fire department to buy a new truck and related equipment to replace their current 1964 American LaFrance engine. For 30 years, the department has periodically issued bonds to pay for trucks and other such equipment.
In 2012, the city refinanced a 2004 bond that was used to upgrade an aerial truck; that move lowered interest from 4.42 percent to 2.37 percent with two years left to pay, saving the taxpayers $10,000. If approved by voters on April 9, the new bond issue would keep the same rate but add 10 more years to the payment, extending the total to 12 years with no tax increase.
“They are doing this now,” said Becky Hansen, city clerk, “because they don’t want the tax rates to drop and then rise.”
Fire chief Todd Bogatitus said the replacement of the truck is necessary because of its age and declining condition. The fire engine has no seat belts and other safety features and does not meet current exhaust emission standards. The department wants the new fire engine to hold 1,000 gallons of water instead of the current 250 gallons. Bogatitus said the old truck could be life-threatening to first responders and the people they need to help.
“It is almost impossible to find replacement parts,” said Bogatitus. “We can’t keep dumping money into something that is 49 years old.”
National Fire Protection Agency suggests replacing an emergency vehicle every 20 years.
“It’s served its purpose,” said Bogatitus. “It’s old and out-of-date.”
Bogatitus said they need the new truck to maintain the city’s Insurance Service Office rating of five on a 1 to 10 scale. The ISO rating is based on fire departments’ ability to meet the local communities’ need, and assessing equipment and maintenance is part of that equation. The rating affects insurance for both homeowners and businesses. Bogatitus said if the rating became worse and went up to a six or seven, it might deter new businesses from moving into the area. If the ISO rating went up, insurance for a home valued at $100,000 could go up $28 a year.
Also in April, Hall High School has a referendum for a $32 million bond to build a new school. Bogatitus said he is worried that people will vote no on the fire truck referendum because they think their taxes will go up.
“The major thing I want to point out is there will not be a tax increase,” Bogatitus said of the fire truck referendum.
Bogatitus also said many people only take action once something bad happens. He hopes people will not do that in this case.
“It’s a no brainer,” he said. “We are doing this to help keep the community safe.”
Bogatitus said they had to ask the taxpayers because the department could not possibly raise the money on its own. He said it took eight years to raise the money for a down payment for a new rescue vehicle the department recently acquired. Bogatitus also said the department’s newest truck is 18 years old, so it would need to be replaced in two years by NFPA standards.
If the referendum passes, the Spring Valley Historical Museum and a museum in Berlin, Germany, which purchased the former Spring Valley rescue truck, were interested in buying the old fire truck.
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