The Canby Fire District will ask voters in the May special district election to consider a new, higher five-year local option levy, which will allow it to hire new firefighters and emergency medical personnel and greatly increase operations for fire and medical calls.
In a February 6 open letter to community members, Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis explained the increase stems from a sharp increase in calls for service — primarily medical emergencies — that has outpaced the district’s funding and staffing levels.
Since voters last approved an 11-cent increase in the district’s local option levy in 2015, raising it from 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to the current rate of 45 cents, emergency calls have increased 56%, from 2,284 in 2014 to 3,568 in 2022.
Compounding the problem, nearly half — 47% — of medical calls are overlapping, meaning they happen at the same time, requiring multiple crews to be deployed throughout the community.
“Currently, when two medical calls overlap, our fire engines do not have adequate staffing for immediate fire response, resulting in delays waiting for assistance from neighboring districts,” Davis said.
“While our neighboring districts do a great job providing mutual aid when needed, they can’t respond as quickly as we can from within the district and, for many fire and medical emergencies, seconds really do count. If the levy passes, we would have enough staffing for a fire engine response while two medical calls are active.”
The proposed levy rate unanimously approved by the Canby Fire District Board of Directors in January would represent a 50-cent increase: 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
If approved, the average homeowner would pay about $262 a year, Davis said, compared to $113 under the current levy. (For tax purposes, assessed value is different — and typically much lower — than real market value.)
The levy is in addition to the district’s permanent tax rate of $1.54, which cannot be raised under Oregon law.
The current levy funds six of the district’s 18 firefighter/medics, Davis said. If the new rate is approved, that number would double, with 12 firefighter/medics funded by the operations levy, and a total of 24 serving the Canby Fire District.
The levy would help staff the district’s new Medic Station 363, which opened last summer, greatly improving response times in the north side of town.
Currently, the north station is staffed with two firefighter/medics around the clock. However, safety standards require that at least three firefighters respond to fire emergency calls, which limits the station’s ability to respond to fires.
If the levy increase passes, “Canby Fire would be able to maintain two response teams at the main station and one at the north station, 24/7,” Davis said. “Having three teams on duty 24/7 would help maintain fast response by reducing the need for out-of-district responders when calls overlap.”
The levy would ensure three firefighter/medics are assigned to the north station at all times, allowing response to both medical and fire emergencies. There would be other benefits as well, Davis explained, including providing a faster response to wildland fires.
“As the May election day approaches, we promise to do our very best to provide to our community with all the information you may require before voting,” the chief said. “We are forever grateful for your support and the opportunity to serve you.”
Read Davis’ full letter to the community here.
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