Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Hailey voters reject fire station bond

$2.3 million proposal fails to capture two-thirds majority

Express Staff Writer

By a significant margin on Tuesday, Hailey voters said "no" to a city-initiated $2.3 million fire station bond request.

When it was all said and done, those marking "yes" on their ballots totaled 1,218, or 57 percent of the votes cast. Those marking "no" totaled 908 votes, or 43 percent. To have passed, the bond request would have had to garner a two-thirds majority from Hailey voters.

At odds on Tuesday was a city-initiated $2.3 million fire station bond request to finance construction of a 10,445-square-foot fire station in southern Hailey. City officials had proposed to build the fire station near the intersection of Woodside and Countryside boulevards.

Perhaps just as significant as the rejection of the fire station bond was the extremely high turnout by Hailey voters Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Altogether, a total of 2,127 city voters cast ballots. That compares to only 877 voters who showed up in Hailey during last May's primary elections and just 85 Hailey voters who showed up during the 2005 November elections, when two incumbent Hailey City Council members ran unopposed for re-election.

During the May primary elections, the city of Hailey had a total of 3,385 registered voters. The current number of registered voters in Hailey wasn't available by press time on Tuesday.

Despite the failure of the bond request, Hailey City Clerk Heather Dawson said she was thrilled by the turnout. The next highest turnout in recent memory was some 1,100 Hailey voters.

"The turnout was awesome," she said.

The proposed Woodside fire station wasn't meant to replace Hailey's approximately 5,200-square-foot fire station on Third Street. The city's long-range plans call for a second fire station to be built somewhere in the northern part of the city, perhaps in the Northridge neighborhood.

If that station is eventually built—something that could take a number of years to happen—the city's Third Street fire station could then be retired, Hailey officials have said.

In the run up to Tuesday's elections, Hailey officials cited inadequate response times to the Woodside area, a need for greater station coverage, a desire to ensure better retention of volunteer recruits and, lastly, protection of the city's existing fire insurance ratings as key reasons why voters should vote "yes" on the proposed bond.

One of the primary issues of contention raised ahead of the bond vote was the design of the fire station. In addition to a 4,800-square-foot main apparatus bay, the building would have included a 2,800-square-foot administrative wing as well as 2,765-square feet of residential living space.

At a total estimated cost of $680,000, the station's proposed residential space contributed significantly to its overall estimated cost. Hailey officials claimed the residential space could be used immediately for another fire department's existing full-time staff under some sort of cooperative use agreement or, sometime in the future, full-time firefighters with the Hailey Fire Department.

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