Leaders of the Marthasville Fire Protection District said a proposed bond issue will give broader rescue capability to its volunteer firefighters and replace a station that is becoming outdated.
Voters will decide on the $1.75 million bond issue — Proposition F — in the April 2 election.
Bonds are a type of loan that a district guarantees to pay back using tax revenue. The maximum amount of money the fire district could borrow this way is the $1.75 million stated on the ballot.
If approved, the Marthasville Fire Protection District would have authority to levy an increased property tax without an additional vote. District officials estimate the property tax increase will be around 28 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
The two major purposes of the bond issue are to build a new Fire Station 1 in Marthasville and replace outdated rescue equipment, some of which is decades old.
“Station 1 is 50 years old. It was built for a lot smaller apparatus,” said Jim Buescher, a member of the fire district board of directors and longtime volunteer.
“Now our trucks are a lot bigger,” he said. “We can’t even do any work on them in the building. You can’t raise the cab. (And) the building has issues. It was probably not a real expensive building when they put it up.”
The fire station has become more expensive to heat and cool, and lacks training and meeting space, officials said.
A new station would have more, larger bays for vehicles, as well as additional interior rooms for training and daily use, explained Fire Chief Jeff Backhaus.
Current plans would keep Station 1 at its same location on Highway D/Main Street, but Backhaus said the district is open to other options as well.
The main equipment to be purchased with the bond issue will be breathing air apparatuses and vehicle extrication tools.
Assistant Fire Chief Sean Johnson said the breathing apparatuses worn by firefighters when they enter burning buildings will reach the end of their usable life within a few years, and are already costing thousands of dollars to repair and maintain.
“We fix it ourselves when we can, but nine out of 10 times . . . it’s not a cheap fix, because moisture has gotten into the heads up display (for example). That’s an $800-$900 expenditure,” Johnson said.
All of the breathing units need to be replaced at the same time and must be the same model, so firefighters know precisely how their equipment works in the heat of the moment, Johnson added. That means the district needs to buy several dozen all at once, each costing thousands to replace.
In addition, the fire district wants to buy enough vehicle extrication tools (Jaws of Life) to have them loaded onto every single truck. These are the devices that help firefighters extricate people trapped in wrecked vehicles.
Right now, the district has a single truck loaded with multiple types of heavy rescue equipment, Johnson said. The other trucks meant for fire response only have multipurpose rescue tools that are over 25 years old, can no longer be serviced, and are less effective, he said.
Backhaus explained that having each truck equipped for both fire and vehicle rescue would provide more effective emergency response.
“It just makes us a much more versatile department, having the pumpers have equipment on them also,” he said.
Fire district officials have hosted a series of public meetings to answer questions from residents. The most common question is whether the tax increase will be permanent, and the answer is no, it will sunset in 10 years.
A small number of residents have wondered whether any money will be used to hire career firefighters, to which officials have responded that paid staff is neither possible nor desired.
The Marthasville Volunteer Fire Department currently has 47 active firefighters.
The fire district will host one final public information meeting before the April 2 election. The meeting will be 11 a.m. Saturday, March 30, at Fire Station 1 in Marthasville.