Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue is seeking new levy to retain/hire more personnel, add apparatus and stations

by: COURTESY OF TUALATIN VALLEY FIRE & RESCUE - GETTING THE FACTS OUT - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Chief Mike Duyck speaks to the Beaverton Forum at Station 67 about progress on the district's Community Vision goals.Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Chief Mike Duyck made a personal call on the King City City Council at its March 5 meeting to talk about the district's Ballot Measure 34-211 that will appear on the May 2014 ballot.

TVF&R has had the same local option levy since 2000, which voters have supported each time it has been up for renewal, and the current one will expire in June 2015. The district is proposing a replacement levy that would pay for retaining 42 firefighter medics hired since 2000 plus adding more firefighter medics, apparatus and stations.

Duyck went into detail about TVF&R's services in King City, which is primarily served by Station 35 located on Pacific Highway just south of Fischer Road.

"We run a lot of medical calls in King City and are glad to do it," he said. "Districtwide, we've tried to mitigate the need for so many medical calls."

According to Duyck, TVF&R has worked with nursing homes and other facilities to take steps to prevent falls and other injuries that necessitate calling 9-1-1.

"The number of calls was cut down, but we are now seeing a trend where they are going back up," he added. "We think we will see it going up every year as the population grows and gets older."

He pointed out that "every rig has at least one person who is a paramedic" and that the vehicles carry highly specialized medical equipment used to perform a variety of life-saving procedures. "We like to say we bring the emergency room to the living room," Duyck said.

During 2013, King City had a total of 1,117 incidents that TVF&R responded to, including 955 medical calls (92 percent), 32 fires (3 percent), 46 public-assistance calls (4 percent) and nine hazardous material calls.

Also in 2103, there were 35 TVF&R inspections in King City and four investigations.

Districtwide, TVF&R maintains specialty hazardous-materials, technical rescue and swift-water rescue teams, and since 2006, it has been upgrading and rebuilding facilities for seismic hardening to be able to respond when disaster strikes.

"We need to be prepared for any possible thing that can happen," Duyck said.

Another area where TVF&R has taken the lead is in public-safety campaigns that include free landlord trainings to help property managers create safe communities at apartment complexes.

"We have seen a significant drop in multi-family fires since we started our public-safety campaigns," Duyck said.

Districtwide in 2013, TVF&R held 744 community events and station tours that involved 53,774 people; it hosted 31 safety house events that included 5,226 people; and it held four landlord-training workshops that involved 168 people.

TVF&R has many different types of vehicles, including four Cars, which are small SUVs. "They are very cost effective, and they keep the larger vehicles available for more serious calls," Duyck said.

Currently, TVF&R includes 210 square miles, nine cities and parts of three counties served by 21 interdependent stations.

Now TVF&R is looking toward the future at a 20-year horizon, anticipating 18 new growth areas; 9,714 acres that can develop; the addition of 26,025 dwellings; and an additional 62,460 people within the district.

If the May 2014 ballot measure is successful, TVF&R plans to add up to 44 firefighter medics at three new sites over the next five years throughout the district. The new sites would include two small and one regular-size fire stations with equipment located between existing sites.

"Our No. 1 priority is fast and effective emergency response," Duyck said. "The passage of the replacement levy would decrease our response times. We don't need all large fire stations. Sometimes a small one fills in the gap."

Consistent with industry standards, TVF&R's travel time objective is five minutes and 12 seconds or less.

The replacement levy has a rate of 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which is a 20 cents increase over the current rate. For a typical home with an assessed value of $230,000, this would result in a total cost of $104 (a $46 increase) in 2015. It would appear for the first time on the November 2015 property tax bill.

If the ballot measure fails, taxes on a typical home would decline by $58. While maintaining emergency-response services would remain TVF&R's priority, the current levy provides 14 percent of TVF&R's total operating revenue.

As a result of the ballot measure failing, reductions in staffing and operations would be required, and TVF&R's Board of Directors anticipates that demands on its service would continue to degrade the speed and effectiveness of its emergency response times.

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