DAYTON - At least one local resident wants central Lyon County fire stations to be manned by full-time paid fire fighters.
Armand Arnett asked the Central Lyon County Fire District Board to begin the legislative process necessary to enable the district to pay for the staffing of selected local fire stations with full time firefighters.
"I am speaking for many, who will support you if you get the ball moving. It is a responsibility the board must face up to," Arnett said Wednesday night. "We have the equipment, we need the people. They (residents) are willing to pay whatever is necessary."
Arnett proposed placing two paid firemen per shift in the Silver Springs, Stagecoach, Dayton Valley and Sutro fire stations to work in conjunction with the volunteers.
He said, "It would be cost prohibitive to go beyond this at this point."
Arnett encouraged the board to move by the first quarter of next year in order to be ready for the 2001 legislature. A special bill would be necessary to allow the fire district to exceed the allowable state tax rate.
The county has about 21 cents remaining under the current state tax cap. It would take more than this amount for the fire district to raise needed funds.
Central Lyon County Fire District officials, however, do not appear to be ready to ask taxpayers to foot the estimated $1 million to $1.25 million in costs it would take to place two full-time employees in four stations for each of three shifts.
According to Central Lyon County Fire District Chief Bill Driscoll, county residents are currently paying 28 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to the fire district, with one cent currently bringing in about $25,400. He said the costs for the requested 24-25 firefighters would almost double the district's current $1.4 annual budget.
"We have been meeting with legislators to try and find different means of bridging the gap, such as impact fees on development to be used exclusively for fire departments," Driscoll said. "This (fire protection and growth) is an evolutionary process and it is not going to solve itself overnight. Other rural areas are suffering the same concerns."
Driscoll said he thinks the volunteer system is getting healthier in the district, with a current count of 120 volunteers, up from 67 more than a year ago.
"I feel it would be premature to pursue an entire paid environment right now. In the past year the board has been very supportive in our efforts and we want to work toward our goals without driving our volunteers away," Driscoll said.
He lauded the recent establishment of the two "fast response teams," one at each end of the county and manned by the district's paid emergency medical responders, as a step in this direction.