The Pingree Grove and Countryside Fire Protection District is asking voters April 4 for permission to borrow $8.5 million to build two new fire stations to replace two existing ones. The property tax increase would be about $117 per year for a house valued at $300,000.
The stations to be replaced date from when the district relied on volunteers. As a result, one is unmanned and personnel at the other one are housed in an adjacent mobile home, Fire Chief Mitch Crocetti said. And they are in the wrong location to cover the district, which is spread over 50 square miles, resulting in call response times of as much as 13 minutes, more than double the goal of 6 minutes, he said.
Meanwhile, the district's call volume has more than doubled since Crocetti became chief in 2004, and the department, which had two full-time firefighters when he started now has six firefighters on duty 24 hours a day.
A new station was built in Pingree Grove in 2015 using funds from the current levy. The expansion plan was developed internally.
"We are only able to offer the level of service taxpayers are willing to pay for," the chief said.
There appears to be no organized support or opposition. The plan is ambitious, but justified, given the growing population's increased demands of its fire service district. We recommend a yes vote.