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Fire department funding

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com

Churchill County residents are being asked to vote on a general election measure to approve major capital improvement for the Fallon/Churchill Fire Department.

According to Bill Lawry, 2nd assistant fire chief, the ballot question is seeking funding over a six-year period to purchase and refurbish equipment. Lawry said county and city residents would not be taxed additionally as a result of County Question 1. As the 2008 measure expires, the Churchill County Commissioners would keep the ad valorum tax rate of 3 percent override implemented six years ago when that ballot measured passed.

Lawry said the voters must cast ballots for Question 1 in order to maintain the same levy.

The downside of the measure — if not passed according to the ballot question explanation — may result in elimination of programs or other programs facing reduced funding to allow the county to buy apparatus and fire equipment.

According to Churchill County Comptroller Alan Kalt, the money derived from an approved measure will amount to about $200,000 annually.

So far, Lawry said he has received good input from the community about County Question 1.

“Most responses seem positive,” Lawry said. “Most people talk in favor of it.”

Since the 2008 passage, Fire Chief Fred Rogne said the fire department has received $1.2 million, which was used to rebuild several fire trucks with re-plumbing and to buy new pumps and hoses.

“We don’t use it for any repairs except for big items,” Rogne told county commissioners in July when they approved the measure to be placed before the votes.

Rogne stressed the fire department has spent the money wisely.

Lawry added that money from the last measure also bought several water tenders.

“This is a bargain for the community and we need to support the fire department,” Commissioner Pete Olsen said.

In addition to buying major equipment if County Question 1 passes, Lawry said an emphasis has been place on buying breathing apparatus and other equipment as deemed necessary.

By keeping the fire department current on its equipment, Lawry said the Fallon/Churchill Fire Department has been able to maintain its ISO 1 (Insurance Service Office) rating since 1995. The ISO rating is a leading source of information about property/casualty insurance risk and with a ranking of one or two, the lower the insurance premiums.

According to industry standards and numerous websites, an ISO 1 rating has not been awarded to too many fire departments in the United States. Only 40 fire departments have received the top rating according to statistics provided by ISO; for example, fire hydrants must be located within a certain distance of each other, and firemen must receive a specified number of hours of training each month.

Since July, members of the fire department have talked to civic groups and other organizations and also gave a presentation at the Lahontan Valley News Candidates’ Night two weeks ago.

Currently, the fire department relies on volunteers except for one full-time employee, the fire marshal.

“We’re very fortunate in this community that people will step up to the plate and become volunteers,” Rogne told commissioners in July. “I have a waiting list right now, we have 42 members, we’re going to increase that and we’ve had some guys retire, so we’re going to start adding more firemen.”