Jeff Cowan, Keizer Fire Chief

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Chief Jeff Cowan of the Keizer Fire District (KFD) recently responded to questionessubmitted from homeowners in the Vineyards neighborhood – part of the city Keizer Fire officials hope to remove from the protection of Marion County Fire District No. 1 (MCFD1).

The questions, submitted by Michael Welter, president of the Vineyards Phase One Board, dealt primarily with the ability of KFD assume the same levels of service as MCFD1 at what would be a lower tax rate and other financial matters. In his responses, Cowan also revealed that Keizer Fire expects to be awarded a fire truck and utility vehicle as part of the taking control of the Clearlake Station on Wheatland Road.

Under MCFD1, homeowners in the Clearlake area contribute about $421,000 to that district’s coffers. If annexed by KFD, homeowners would pay about $350,000. Welter asked if KFD would be able to provide the same levels of service at the cheaper rate.

“Keizer will provide the same or better service, and do so at a lower tax rate. There are no benefits MCFD1 provides that Keizer Fire District cannot provide as a full service, professional emergency service agency.” responded Cowan in a letter. “Keizer Fire has been Clearlake’s primary fire and emergency responder since 1948, and primary ambulance provider for over 20 years.”

Cowan said the district is seeking to protect the revenues generated by the homes in the area and for ambulance service fees, which KFD collected until the recent termination of an agreement with MCFD1.

Under the terms of withdrawal/annexation currently being discussed, area residents would continue paying for a MCFD bond that sunsets in six years and then another reduction in property payments would occur if KFD doesn’t issue a bond of its own. Annexation would have no effect on homeowner’s insurance rates, Cowan said.

Welter also asked whether KFD would be able to outfit the MCFD Clearlake station without incurring additional costs.

Cowan responded by revealing part of the plan to withdraw the Clearlake that involves assignment of resources. If the withdrawal were to progress unimpeded, Keizer City officials and Keizer Fire officials would get to dictate an equitable division of the resources that includes the MCFD Clearlake Station 6.

“We expect to receive [as part of the obligations paid for by the MCFD1 bond] one additional fire truck and a utility vehicle,” Cowan responded. “The expense of fully staffing and operating an additional station and maintenance of the equipment is covered by the tax revenue that we would receive from the annexation.”

Keizer Fire would assign a medic unit to the station if the withdrawal reaches fruition. KFD would also assimilate the six volunteers stationed at the Clearlake station into its volunteer recruitment and retention program, Cowan said.