Benton County Fire District 1 is considering a new levy next year to pay for the expansion of the emergency medical service, while making facility improvements and replacing equipment.
Chief Lonnie Click says they are planning for the future.
People living in the district pay a six-year fire levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value that ends in 2019. The district is ready to start discussing the option to run an Emergency Medical Services levy on a ballot in 2018 to fund ambulance service expansion.
“This discussion is just in its initial phases, and the community will have plenty of opportunities to weigh in before the agency decides to go to the ballot for voter-approved funding,” Click said.
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Benton County Fire District 1 covers 320 square miles including south Kennewick, Finley, Rancho Reata and Badger Canyon. It serves 17,800 people and responds to 1,300 calls on average per year. Click said they want to be ready to serve more.
“It is going up on an annual basis. It’s not huge, but it keeps going up,” he said about the population. “We are staying in pace with it.”
More people means more calls for service, which amounts to 2 percent more each year for the past 10 years. Click said 90 percent of ambulance calls are to take people to hospitals, leaving them to rely on other agencies to cover for them while they are out of the district.
“We’ve grown to the point of needing to provide better service for our people as well as be a good neighbor to other fire agencies around us,” he said.
To improve service in the Badger Canyon and Rancho Reata areas, Click said they are looking to either build a new, better-placed fire station or remodel the existing facility.
The current station is on the far western side of the district adjacent to the border with Benton County Fire District 2. They are considering building a newer one farther east.
If the district decides to remodel, Click said they want to build a new squad room, kitchen, dorm rooms and offices.
We’ve grown to the point of needing to provide better service for our people as well as be a good neighbor to other fire agencies around us.
Benton County Fire District 1 Chief Lonnie Click
The district has not started consulting with engineers to determine the costs for either option, he said.
Equipment and personnel are needed to expand and improve services. Click said they received a $403,000 FEMA grant to pay the majority of the cost to buy 65 new air packs, complete with second tanks, 85 masks and necessary hoses.
The district acquired a bulldozer to help with wildland fires, and Click said he would like to buy a new ladder truck to replace the one they have that was built in 1992.
“They really vary (in cost) depending on what you get. It can be from $350,000 up to a $1 million,” he said. “We need a small one that can be used daily.”
Click said they are starting to make long-term plans and wants to keep the public involved.
“It’s important that we be able to respond quickly and effectively when you need us,” he said. “This means planning for facility and apparatus needs, as well as improving the emergency services that we provide. We’re in that planning stage right now and want to keep our community informed.”