News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Funding for Cloverdale RFPD in voters’ hands

Amid the primary battles for party nominations for positions from Deschutes County Commissioner to Governor on the May 17 ballot is a measure that will affect the safety of residents living in the eastern area of Sisters country covered by the Cloverdale Rural Fire Protection District.

The Fire District is going back to voters to seek funding to provide a sustainable level of 24/7 staffing. The District is seeking a 69-cents-per-$1,000 (assessed valuation) levy to fund 24/7 staffing by fire officers/EMTs.

Cloverdale Fire District voters in May 2021 said a vehement “no” to a levy that carried a tax rate of $1.35 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Voters rejected it by a 70 percent to 30 percent margin.

This time around, the stripped-down request seems to be garnering widespread support, including support from people who opposed the 2021 effort. Some of those who have revised their position for the new measure say that it is financially responsible and retains the District’s autonomy.

The District board of directors, staff, and members of the volunteer association worked together over the past months to come up with a reduced funding level that will still cover the District’s most fundamental need — additional officer staffing.

“This is a really stripped-down version of the last levy,” Larry Turin, volunteer association vice president told The Nugget last March.

Staff, board, and volunteer personnel who spoke with The Nugget when the ballot measure was filed all agreed that the current staffing level is unsustainable, putting far too much strain on Fire Chief Thad Olsen and Captain and Training Officer Jeremy Hall. The District board has mandated that there be officer supervision 24/7. The District has a solid cadre of volunteers, but all agree that they cannot be expected to take on a consistent role as supervising officers.

If passed, the levy will provide sufficient funding — an estimated $315,744 in 2022-23 — to pay for two additional officer- and EMT-qualified staff, as well as adding three firefighter student scholarships, bringing the District’s cadre of students to six. Three of those students could be housed at the District’s North Station, reducing response times to that sector of the District.

The increased staffing is expected to relieve the unsustainable burden on existing staff, and significantly improve the District’s response time to incidents. The number of those incidents continues to grow. The District reported that its call volume increased 17 percent from 2020 to 2021, from 316 to 370 calls. That trend is expected to continue.

When first responders have to wait for volunteers to respond to the station, it can take eight to 12 minutes to get a unit out of the station, Chief Olsen reports. With increased staffing, that response time can be reduced to one to two minutes.

Supporters agree that the primary purpose of the proposed staffing increase is to improve firefighter and public safety.

Ballots have been mailed for the May 17 election. Completed ballots, including signature, may be mailed back or dropped at an official secure ballot drop box. One is located in front of Sisters City Hall.


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