Pacific Fire Protection Department firefighters will ask voters June 2 for a tax increase for the first time since 2004.
Prop Fire/F is a 27-cent increase collected on property taxes.
Franklin and Jefferson County voters will see this issue on the ballot as Proposition Fire, while the 15 St. Louis County voters served by the fire district will see it as Prop F.
The Pacific Fire Protection District provides services to approximately 15,000 citizens and covers 78 square miles encompassing Pacific, Catawissa and Robertsville, as well as other unincorporated portions of Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis counties.
The district employs 15 full-time firefighters, three chief officers, and one secretary anchored from two 24/7 engine houses and one reserve engine house.
Chief Steve Sagehorn said the proposition is being requested for three purposes — personnel, equipment and safety/health features for the district’s firefighters. Specifically, district representatives hope to modernize an aging firehouse and add more staffing to House 2 in Robertsville.
“A fire house is considered critical infrastructure, and should be built with modern needs and services in mind,” Sagehorn said. “This includes adequate housing that’s necessary for firefighters.”
The chief said there are currently three full-time firefighters that staff House 1 in Pacific, and two full-time firefighters and one part-time firefighter that staff House 2 in Robertsville.
“Due to other area fire departments adding additional staffing, there has been a decrease in the number of firefighters seeking part-time opportunities. This has left the PFPD with an inability to staff House 2 with three firefighters 24/7,” Sagehorn said.
He added there are several days each month during which staffing levels at House 2 are at a minimum of two firefighters.
Sagehorn said these staffing levels are deemed inadequate by a National Institute of Standards and Technology report on residential fire ground field experiments. He said the report concluded it is essential to properly staff a fire truck so life and property can be protected and saved.
“With the growing health and safety needs of our citizens and their property in mind, the PFPD would be adding three additional full-time firefighters to our team to staff the Robertsville fire house with three firefighters 24/7,” he added.
Sagehorn said the district’s firefighters have done a great job of building, maintaining and updating House 2 in Robertsville over the years. But, despite these efforts, the firehouse is due for a much-needed overhaul so it can continue to serve its intended purpose.
The original engine bay was built 39 years ago in 1981, and the living quarters built 30 years ago in 1990.
To keep costs down for citizens, Sagehorn said these buildings were built with volunteer labor from the district’s firefighters. He said the planned renovations would provide firefighters with current health and safety standards, as well as equipment needed for the best responses to fire, rescue and EMS emergencies.
Through the years, Sagehorn said firefighting apparatus has increased in size, weight and capability. He emphasized that the original engine house was built when equipment was much smaller.
One of the biggest costs of equipment is the fire trucks themselves. The chief said the average life span of a fire truck is 20 years.
“Typically, after this timeframe, maintenance costs make it no longer cost-effective to continue to operate the truck. Currently, we have two trucks at, or over the 20-year mark, and one approaching it. Prop Fire will help aid the PFPD in maintaining and purchasing the fire trucks necessary to continue to serve the needs of our community,” said Sagehorn.
Prop F ballot language will read as follows:
“Shall the Board of Directors of the Pacific Fire Protection District of Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis counties, Missouri, be authorized to levy an additional tax of not more than twenty-seven cents on the one hundred dollars assessed valuation to provide funds for the support and development of the District, including but not limited to, for the employment of additional full-time personnel and the acquisition and/or replacement of fire-fighting equipment.”
The residential assessment rate in Franklin County is set at 19 percent, which district officials state means a residence with a market value of $100,000 has an assessed value at $19,000. Applying a 27-cent increase, fire protection district officials estimate the cost to such a sample residence would be $51.30 annually or $4.28 monthly.
The proposed Prop Fire increase for a house with a $200,000 market value is $8.56 monthly.
If passed, taxpayers would see the increase on their tax documents. Taxes are collected through the county tax collector in the county one resides.
Employees of this Pacific-headquartered fire protection district have served Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis counties since 1972.