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Fire district seeks OK for $77 million bond

New stations, equipment seen as crucial to future

Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue will ask voters in November to approve a $77.5 million, 20-year general obligation bond that will help make a long-term investment in the district's emergency response infrastructure.

Funding from the measure will be used to address station deficiencies, replace emergency vehicles, acquire land for stations, construct two new stations and build a new command and business operations facility.

'For the health of the district this is a very important measure,' said Larry Goff, fire district board president.

If approved, the fire district would have the authority to sell up to $77.5 million in general obligation bonds to meet project costs as they are built.

Because of the nature of the measure, the bond tax rate will vary, said Walt Peck, fire district spokesman.

In the first two years, an owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $14 in 2007 and 2008. The maximum annual cost for a typical home during the 20-year life of the bond will be about $33, Peck said.

Answering the call

The fire district board Tuesday night approved the bond for the November ballot after a discussion outlining the district's needs in light of growing demands for fire protection and emergency medical services.

The district serves more than 420,000 residents in one of the fastest growing regions in Oregon and strives to respond to 90 percent of all incidents within six minutes.

'Our customers, they have an expectation that we will be there in a timely fashion with the right equipment and people with the right training,' said Board member Robert Wyffels.

The bond is needed to help ensure that response times are where they need to be, he added.

Fire Chief Jeff Johnson said the bond held 'tremendous significance' for the future of the fire district by funding projects needed to keep pace with growth within its boundary.

Projects include the purchase of 15 fire engines, two trucks, two water tenders, two transport rescues, a rescue pumper and heavy rescue unit.

Major seismic and safety upgrades are also planned for Somerset Station 64, West Slope Station 65, South Beaverton Station 66 and Cooper Mountain Station 69.

The fire district also hopes to replace older fire stations, including Oak Hills Station 68 and Progress Station 53. It also will be used to build a new station on Walnut Street in Tigard.

The district expects to use some of the money to purchase land for construction of three new stations in North Bethany, Bull Mountain and Aloha.

Resolving problems

A number of the projects have been on the district's radar since the late-1990s and deferred due to limited resources, said Gary Wells, director of the logistics division.

'We've reached the point where we can't put them off any more,' Wells said.

Assistant Fire Chief Paul LeSage agreed.

'Responses continue to degrade due to a lot of development outside the reach of our infrastructure,' he said.

He pointed to a major trouble spot along Walnut Street in Tigard, where deployment analysis reveals the worst performance in the district.

'We've tried to move around apparatus and redistribute resources, but the travel times are still too long,' LeSage said. 'Nothing short of a new facility in the area will resolve that issue for us.

'We're not able to stem the tide based on the demand.'

Fire district officials said they explored other funding options, including deferring a bond request to 2008 because of the other pressing needs in the district.

'We take seriously a request for taxing authority,' Johnson said. 'Unfortunately, I don't see any other alternative.'