Boone County’s Fire Protection District is requesting a $14 million bond issue on this April’s ballot in hopes of acquiring funds to purchase new fire trucks and renovate several fire stations.
If it passes, the bond would be paid for over the course of a 20 year period. It would levy a 25 cent tax per $100 of assessed valuation on personal property and real estate for the first 10 years. After the first 10 years, the rate would fall to 10 cents per $100 assessed.
Gale Blomenkamp is the Boone County Fire Protection District Battalion Chief. He says they save taxpayers more than 20 million dollars per year by keeping an almost entirely volunteer staff, but even with these savings they don’t have the funds to fund the replacements and renovations they need.
“We operate on about a $3.75 million budget. And to put that into perspective, if we were to fully fund the same size fire district and fire department that we have now, that would be looking at over $30 million,” Blomenkamp said. “So for us to try to replace all of these apparatus based on our current budget, it’s just unrealistic.”
Blomenkamp says the last bond issue expired in 2008, and they decided not to request a new one then because of the economic downturn.
“At that point was just not a time economically that we felt like we could go to a vote of the people and ask them to increase their taxes when they were going through economical hard times,” Blomenkamp said.
Boone County Farm Bureau endorsed the bond issue. Farm Bureau President Deanna Crocker says the need for new equipment is imminent.
“The fire trucks that are in service are 20 to 30 years old,” Crocker said. “We need some protection from fires. We have to have fire trucks.”
There is also a fire station no volunteers can live in due to its age, the state of its foundation and the presence of mold. The department would like to replace this station and add one more station near Route HH. Crocker says Farm Bureau is behind the issue because farmers need fire protection just like everyone else.
“There are combine fires,” Crocker said. “There are brush fires. There are all kinds of fires on agricultural land just like there are fires that happen in anyone’s home.”
The bond question will be on the April 8 ballot in Boone County.