Editorial: Is station No. 2 needed?
April 2, 2011
There are a number questions about the Craig Rural Fire Protection District’s idea to build a second fire station. Those questions revolve around the growth and expansion of Craig, voter intent of the 2006 mill levy and whether the project is worth the money. Given these uncertainties, the fire board needs to slow down before it spends public money unwisely on a questionable project.
It's no secret the men and women of Craig Fire/Rescue are brave, talented and dedicated, traits that are rare these days.
In 2006, after two previous attempts, local voters finally gave the thumbs up to a mill levy increase that would boost funding for the Craig Rural Fire Protection District for much needed equipment upgrades for our firefighting volunteers.
The Editorial Board supports that decision — we want to make sure our fire department has as much equipment as they need to safely and efficiently fight fires and serve the public.
However, there's a catch: we support funding the fire department's needs — not its every want and wish through our tax dollars.
The fire department's exploration of a second fire station is one such project that has Editorial Board members questioning some things.
Fire officials list several reasons why the station is needed and their investigations into building south of The Memorial Hospital are prudent.
Those reasons include the physical expansion and population growth of Craig to the west and a future need for a full-time fire department in the face of declining volunteerism in the district.
Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Bill Johnston contends communities need one fire station for every 10,000 residents and now that we have reached that plateau, the department needs another station to meet the community's future growth.
However, statistics indicate Craig has grown by only 275 residents in 10 years — from 2000 to 2010.
That modest growth hasn't exactly translated into an increase in calls, either. In 2005, the fire department received 294 calls for service, and many of those were for medical-related incidents. That number increased to 333 in 2010.
Based on the numbers, it's unclear why there's a need for a second station, let alone a full-time firefighting staff. Calls for service and the population have changed some, but not by leaps and bounds.
Why not wait and see if the area actually develops — so far, it hasn't all that much — before building a second station with public money?
This seems to be a far more logical approach than what the fire department is doing.
We also wonder about other aspects of the second station proposal, including a live fire training building and training tower.
In 2002, voters rejected a mill levy increase that would have funded a training center.
Now, it seems as if the fire department is simply getting what it first wanted by another name, and circumventing the public in doing so.
Johnston said he has doubts about the affordability of what his ideal second fire station would have — training center included — and we would encourage the fire board to take a long hard look at the finances required for such a station.
Officials also contend facility upgrades were mentioned in their 2006 campaign.
But, that language isn't outlined in the information sent to voters directly or in the ballot measure. It only specifically mentions equipment.
Surely the expense of a second station is enough to discuss thoroughly with voters, but it doesn't appear that's happened.
If the fire board is truly acting in the best interest of the public it serves, why don't they do the right thing and put this issue back on the ballot before moving forward?
Again, this only seems reasonable, because it appears to some Editorial Board members the money collected through the mill levy is now burning a hole in the fire department's pocket, after new equipment was purchased.
The Editorial Board encourages residents to take an active interest in this project, the history of the past mill levies and the fire department's finances.
Fire officials have said if people have questions and opinions, they should attend the regular fire board meetings — we're recommending the public do that very thing.
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