By JOE VAN METER
Several opinions were expressed in last week’s Keizertimes about the last City Council meeting. As the saying goes, everyone has a right to their opinion. So, in an effort to get back to the facts, I offer the process the Keizer Fire Board of Directors’ went through to bring Clear Lake to the Keizer Fire District.
For years the Keizer Fire Board of Directors has been asked why Clear Lake was not a member of the Keizer Fire District. I began hearing about it soon after I was elected to the Board in 2001. In the first part of this year the Board received letters from two Clear Lake Home owners association; Vineyards Phase II and Keizer Prairie. They were asking to be included in the Keizer Fire District. We discussed options, then proceeded to research the issue. After much research and discussion, a decision to find the best lawyer to advise us and make a recommendation concerning the process was instigated.
During March and April, representatives of the Keizer Fire Board met with Marion County Fire District to attempt to reach a resolution to the issue. Though stating they were open to discussion the Marion County Fire District proceeded to terminate a 20 year intergovernmental agreement in which we, the Keizer Fire District, provided the ambulance service to Clear Lake.
As part of the process recommended by our attorney, the Board voted to ask the City of Keizer to exercise their legal option and request the withdrawal of Clear Lake from MCFD and consent to service of the area by Keizer Fire. After many hours of testimony over several months, the matter passed 6 to 1 by the City Council on the condition that the matter was to be put to a vote by the citizens of Keizer on March 13th, 2012.
After the city vote, the Fire District then voted to annex the Clear Lake area by Board Action, pending the peoples vote allowing us to do so. Even after the Council action, Keizer Fire was in contact with Marion County Fire to find a resolution; again they choose to stop discussion. As this letter is being written, we have, once again, started a process to resolve the issue with Marion County Fire District.
The proposed withdrawal and annexation, to be voted on Mar. 13th, 2012, will benefit all of Keizer, including Clear Lake, in services and taxes. Marion County Fires total tax rate per thousand is $2.4205 per thousand. Keizer Fires total tax rate is $1.8441 per thousand. Due to an equipment bond passed in Marion County Fire District, the new Clear Lake rate will be $2.0586 per thousand, still a reduction.
The benefit to all Keizer residents will be an additional 12 hours of ambulance coverage per day at no additional tax cost. In addition, if you live in Clear Lake your rate will actually go down. Keizer will have two full time ambulances serving Keizer with two paramedics responding to each event. This is the same model used in Salem, though this level of service is not used by Marion County Fire.
The Keizer Fire board looks forward to the City Council passing this matter forward to a vote of the people at their meeting on December 19th 2011.
As we move forward with long range planning, budget, and other activities, the Keizer Fire Board invites your participation. Our budget is online, as is information regarding the Clear Lake annexation. If interested, please visit www.keizerfire.com
In the interim, the Keizer Fire Department will continue to provide the best Ambulance and Fire Service available to all of Keizer.
Joe Van Meter is president of the Keizer Fire District Board of Directors.