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Reader Commentary: Vote yes on M34-268 to boost fire safety in District 2

Rural residents north, west and south of Hillsboro have a problem on their hands: Their fire department is in danger of closing its doors.

For years, the area — which includes the city of North Plains and the Scholls community south of town — has been served by Washington County’s Fire District 2, but the agency has struggled for years financially, and is looking to find another agency to take over operations.

Measure 34-268 would make that happen.

District 2 doesn’t have the money to survive on its own. It knows that it needs to merge with another larger organization if people in North Plains and rural Hillsboro want to continue getting fire service.

TVF&R has been doing the job already for months. Last year, District 2 contracted with TVF&R to take over administrative duties after its partnership with Hillsboro ended, and in July that was expanded to include day-to-day operations.

Firefighters in District 2 effectively became TVF&R employees as a sort-of pilot program ahead of possible annexation and by all accounts it seems to have been a success.

Since taking over in District 2, TVF&R has been able to bring the district more in line with national standards, adding staffing to District 2’s fire stations (they now have three firefighters on duty at any given time, instead of two, which is safer when fighting fires)and brought in additional equipment the stations didn’t have before. They’ve brought in firefighters cross trained as paramedics, meaning that when they respond to medical calls — which make up a majority of calls the district responds to — they’re able to do more with patients before they can be taken to a nearby hospital.

That’s a big deal in rural Washington County, where a trip to the hospital isn’t as easy to get to as it is in Beaverton or Hillsboro.

If TVF&R takes over permanently, it’ll continue its improvements. More personnel will be on duty at District 2 stations than even current numbers, bringing the stations up to national safety standards.

Merging with TVF&R makes sense. Its history of solid service and its many, many resources mean that if and when emergencies happen, TVF&R will be ready to respond immediately.

One downfall to annexing with TVF&R is that the largely rural residents who make up the area will have to pay higher taxes for the privilege.

The current property tax in District 2 is $1.69 per $1,000 of assessed value. That will rise to $1.97 per $1,000 if the annexation moves forward.

That’s a larger increase than we’d like to see, but doesn’t change our minds that this measure is worth supporting.

The merger has been endorsed by the firefighters of both agencies, as well as the District 2 board of directors, who would be putting themselves out of a job if annexation happens. The city of North Plains, the only city in the district, is also supporting the measure.

The choice is clear: Vote yes on 34-268.