20 Feb 2018

Belgrade News: City moves closer to solving fire quandary

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As the City of Belgrade grows, it faces challenges.  One is a state law that requires the city to have it’s own fire department once it hits 10,000 residents. The city is moving to change the law and continue Central Valley Fire operations.  If the city is forced to form it’s own department, taxes will have to go up.

City moves closer to solving fire quandary
Freddy Monares, Belgrade News staff writer Feb 15, 2018

The city of Belgrade is close to seeing a draft for a piece of legislation to change a requirement for the city to provide it’s own fire services once it hits a population of 10,000, which city officials say could happen by 2020.

Ted Barkley, city manger, is leading the effort to change the law and said he’s been meeting with fire chiefs, firefighters and city mangers to get their ideas on what a change should look like.

Currently the city contracts with Central Valley Fire District for its fire services because city officials said it’s a lot cheaper than having to provide its own fire department. The fire district spreads the costs for fire services beyond the city’s borders, which makes it cheaper than having residents within the city pony up the money for the services.

The local government interim committee is charged with studying and drafting legislation related to fire services. Barkley has been to meetings with the committee and said there has not been a lot of resistance to the change, but he expects more concerns would be raised as the fix gets closer.

“There is broad recognition that Belgrade has an issue that needs to be addressed, and the only way that it could be addressed is through legislation,” Barkley said.

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell is the vice chair for the interim committee. She said the city has been very proactive about changing the law.

During the 2017 regular legislative session, the city had proposed similar legislation to change the policy, but Dunwell said the legislators needed more time to perfect it. Instead, legislators voted to study the issue in the interim and, she said, come up with the public policy by studying what other states are doing and take input from other firefighting agencies.

“We needed to flush it out,” Dunwell said, and added, “This gives us time to really look at all of the issues and take advantage of the best opportunities.”

The interim committee is expected to have a draft of the legislation by the next meeting on March 14. Barkley said he would be able to outline what the legislation looks like at that point.

“That will be the next public discussion, and we’ll have the elements of a bill at that point,” he said.

Source: City moves closer to solving fire quandary


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