Issue of: May 13, 1998  


Carey votes on fire protection

Express Staff Writer

A ballot initiative that would allow an increase in property taxes inside the Carey Rural Fire District will come before voters in the primary election scheduled for May 26.

The ballot, if approved, will raise the property tax levy rate above the 3 percent initiative currently in effect. The initiative stipulates that property taxes can not rise more than 3 percent per year. However, the Carey Rural Fire District is a separate taxing entity from county and city authorities and is backing this measure.

Residents within Carey Rural Fire District could expect to pay roughly double what they paid in 1997 for increased fire protection.

For example, real property within the district with improvements of $50,000 would see its annual district property tax rise from the current level of $43.42 to $80. This is a 0.0016 percent increase in property taxes on real property, including homes, barns, stables and other structures.

A property owner who makes more improvements than another would be taxed at a higher rate, but they also would have more to protect.

The increase in taxes only applies to improvements on the land; it would not apply to vacant acreage, farmland or undeveloped areas.

Unimproved property within the fire district is not subject to the district tax. Taxpayers pay for a service that corresponds to their needs and to their needs alone. The rest of Blaine County will not be affected by the rate increase.

The district encompasses roughly 500 square miles, from 10 miles east of Carey to 10 miles south of town and includes the Picabo and Gannet areas as well as Baseline Road over to State Highway 75.

Revenues from the tax increase would be used for maintenance needs and basic operating expenses. Construction of a fire station in Gannet is another possibility.

Currently the fire department runs on $18,652 a year. With passage of this ballot measure, the department would receive between $30,000 and $32,000 a year.

Roughly 20 volunteers are on call 24 hours a day. The equipment they use consists of three main engines, two brush rigs and two tankers. The brush rigs are unique in that they can keep traveling as they pump water, making them ideal for range fires. The three main engines must remain stationary while pumping. The tankers act as reloading shuttles. With this force completely operational there are "10,000 gallons on wheels," in the words of Carey Fire Chief John Adamson.

That amount of water is sufficient to combat most situations except for extreme circumstances. The engines operating at full blast can supply a continuous flow of water almost perpetually if the tankers are rolling in congress with the effort.

One important factor in the significance of this ballot issue is the age of the equipment that the Carey Fire Department employs. The newest engine is a 1959 model that runs well, says Chief Adamson, "but parts are hard to find."

The cost of a new fire engine is approximately $180,000, which makes it financially out of the question for the district at this time. The budget increase would enable the updating of safety equipment and other obligatory gear.

An extra tanker truck will be coming on line this summer, and passage of the ballot measure on Tuesday, May 26, will permit future improvements to the service.


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