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County voters snuff out fire bond

For second time this year, CRF&R tax measure fails to pass

Photo Credit: FILE - Columbia River Fire & Rescue maintains a small fire station outside the Columbia County Fairgrounds. Money from the $15 million general obligation bond measure that voters rejected in Tuesday's election would have been used to expand the station, fire district officials said.Columbia County voters rejected Columbia River Fire & Rescue’s bond measure for capital improvements in the May primary election. They evidently didn’t like it any better this fall.

The $15 million general obligation bond levy, which CRF&R said would be used to purchase new equipment and upgrade fire stations, trails by 863 votes, according to unofficial results from the Tuesday, Nov. 4, election. That is a percentage point margin of 10 points.

The bond measure actually fared substantially better in May, when it was defeated by a 42-vote margin. However, turnout in the primary was much lower, with only 6,690 votes being cast in the race. In Tuesday’s election, 10,655 votes were cast, according to the unofficial vote totals.

“We’re pretty disappointed again,” said Jay Tappan, chief of CRF&R. “We failed by a pretty big margin this time.”

Tappan said the fire district would not try again after the election results.

“We don’t plan to put anything else out for a significant amount of time, so there won’t be any more bond measures out there for a while,” said Tappan, adding, “The voters spoke loud and clear about their unwillingness to increase taxes for fire district equipment.”

Jay Tappan.The defeat of the measure came despite a more vigorous campaign by district officials to get it passed. Yard signs boosting the bond dotted St. Helens and rural areas in the weeks leading up to the election, and Tappan and CRF&R board members visited local governing bodies to make their pitches for the measure.

“We hit all the boards and councils,” Tappan said. “We didn’t have any negative response to speak of.”

He added, “We felt really good going into it.”

The CRF&R board of directors decided to refer the bond levy to voters in November after it narrowly failed in May. In the previous election, it shared the ballot with another major money measure, the successful Measure 5-238 to fund the Columbia County Jail.

Tappan said that in the absence of the general obligation bonds, CRF&R will continue on its current maintenance schedule and defer work it had wanted to do on a seismic retrofit of its Rainier Fire Station and expansion of its Fairgrounds Fire Station west of St. Helens.

It may be possible to revisit plans to retrofit the Rainier station if the district secures a grant, Tappan suggested.

The CRF&R district stretches from Rainier to Warren. County voters within that district saw the measure on their election ballots.