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Bend Fire Department eyes May levy vote

By Alicia Inns
Published On: Dec 18 2013 08:27:27 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 19 2013 02:24:58 PM CST

Survey results fuel Bend Fire Dept.'s plans to ask voters for a tax in May.

BEND, Ore. -

For the Bend Fire Department, it seems the roles have reversed.

Instead of them helping you, they need your help, and an early survey finds reason to believe they'll get it.

"We wanted to know if people would support a local option levy in May of 2014," Fire Chief Larry Langston said Wednesday.

It appears you would. Portland-based DHM Research polled 400 Bend residents and 100 people in the nearby rural fire protection district, which the fire department serves by contract.

A little more than 70 percent responded that they would support the tax.

"To do what we need to do for the citizens, we thought it was an important thing," Langston said.

For more than a century, the Bend Fire Department has used only the money allocated to them by the city budget.

With an already tight budget, Langston says they just can't survive on that any more and properly serve the community.

"We completely run out of resources about two or three times a week," Langston said.

The tax would be 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $40 a year for a $200,000 home.

But there's good news: Two tax measures are expiring in the county, so that means Bend taxpayers wouldn't see their property tax bill increase.

A yes vote wold generate $2 million a year for the department, enough to hire 20 - 25 more people over the next five years.

And enough to help a community that is growing once again, with more growth on the way.

"The new Oregon State (Cascades) campus is coming up so a lot is happening in Bend and we want to be sure that we can be there to get the job done," Langston said.

Covering 1,600 square miles, the more hands, the better.

"Seeing the additional staffing coming on, getting the firefighters the help they need --, it means so much," Langston said.

The fire department will present the full survey results to Bend City Council on Jan. 8th.

It should pretty much be a done deal, as councilors in August voted unanimously that they would move forward with putting the levy on the May ballot.

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