Friday, November 10, 2006

Officials reflect on defeat of fire station bond

Vote indicates Hailey residents happy with emergency service, city official says

Express Staff Writer

By a 57-to-43 percent margin Tuesday, Hailey voters rejected a city-initiated $2.3 million fire station bond request. To pass, the ?yes? votes would have had to equal or exceed a two-thirds majority. If it had passed, funds from the bond would have helped pay for the estimated $2.7 million cost of a new fire station in Woodside. The new station would not have replaced the city?s existing fire station on Third Street, above. Photo by Chris Pilaro

Hailey officials believe city voters sent them an unmistakable message Tuesday when they rejected a city-initiated $2.3 million fire station bond request.

"It was clear to us that they're satisfied with the current level of service they're getting," Hailey City Administrator Jim Spinelli said Thursday.

If, rather than rejecting the bond, Hailey voters had instead chosen to approve the ballot measure, the funds would have helped pay for the estimated $2.7 million cost of a new fire station at the intersection of Woodside and Countryside boulevards in southern Hailey.

"This vote means they don't want it," Spinelli said.

While acknowledging the city did put a lot of effort into the bond, Spinelli said city leaders respect the vote of Hailey residents.

"We're not stamping our feet," he said.

For the bond request to have passed, Hailey voters would have had to approve it with at least a two-thirds, or 67 percent, majority.

Instead, 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.

Although the entire city of Hailey voted on the bond, the issue was packaged primarily as a benefit to the residents living in the Woodside neighborhood, the area where the fire station was to be built. Hailey fire officials have said that estimated emergency response times to the Woodside area average about eight minutes.

This compares to four-minute average response times for the rest of Hailey, they say.

Perhaps surprisingly, even a significant number of voters living in the Woodside neighborhood weren't swayed by the city's arguments for the bond. Voters living in Hailey Precinct No. 3, which covers the Woodside area, rejected the fire station bond by a margin of 389 "yes" votes to 228 "no" votes, or 63 percent to 37 percent.

While higher than anywhere else in the city, the Woodside vote still failed to reach the needed two-thirds majority.

Elsewhere, Hailey voters in the other three precincts and those voting absentee rejected the fire station bond by the following margins:

· Hailey Precinct No. 1, southwest Hailey: 196 "yes" votes to 160 "no" votes, or 55 percent to 45 percent.

· Hailey precinct No. 2, northern Hailey: 216 "yes" votes to 168 "no" votes, or 56 percent to 44 percent.

· Hailey Precinct No. 4, eastern Hailey: 219 "yes" votes to 195 "no" votes, or 53 percent to 47 percent.

· Hailey absentee voters: 198 "yes" votes to 158 "no" votes, or 56 percent to 44 percent.

On Thursday morning, Hailey officials and city staff held their first meeting since the election. Spinelli said they discussed the vote but didn't go into much depth on what the city intends to do now that Hailey voters have spoken.

The city will continue to try and improve emergency response times in the Woodside area, Spinelli said.

He commended Hailey voters on their high turnout at the polls.

"I'm always pleased with that," he said.

Altogether, a total of 2,127 Hailey voters voted on Tuesday. That compares to only 877 voters who showed up last May and just 85 Hailey voters a year ago last November.

Spinelli said one thing, however, does remain clear. The price to build a new fire station in Hailey will only become more expensive as time goes by.

"The prices are not going to go down," he said.

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