By JASON COX
and LYNDON A. ZAITZ

Of the Keizertimes 

Three months after its board voted not to ask voters for a 16-cent operating levy extension, Marion County Fire District No. 1’s directors voted to instead increase the proposed amount to 29 cents.

The board’s vote came a day after MCFD triumphed at the ballot box in its battle with Keizer Fire District, which sought to annex about 1,000 homes in the Clear Lake neighborhood.

Board President Randy Franke said the timing was not due to the contentious election between MCFD and Keizer Fire District, but that the board just recently learned of the filing deadline for the upcoming May election. Chief J. Kevin Henson said the agency found out about the deadline “about two weeks ago.” He said that the matter would have been considered at its regularly scheduled March 21 meeting if not for the deadline.

“If we want to renew the local option tax, continue the current tax base at that amount, you need to know that we need to take action tonight or it doesn’t happen,” Henson told the board.

Franke said ambulance service could be threatened throughout the district with either no levy or a 16-cent levy. Henson said he didn’t know if an ambulance would remain in service at the Clear Lake station if the proposed levy fails, and said he would have more information next week.

The board voted 4-0 to ask residents within Marion County Fire District’s territory, which includes the Clear Lake neighborhood in north Keizer, to raise its operating levy to 29 cents from its current 16-cent level. Board members changing their position from December’s vote on a 16-cent levy renewal were Franke, Wayne Miller and Ken Morin. Orville Downer supported both. Bernie Otjen voted yes in December, but was absent from Wednesday night’s meeting.

Retired MCFD firefighter Bob Palmer asked why the board was “all of a sudden considering” the matter just one day after it triumphed in the Clear Lake election.

“I would characterize it slightly differently than you did,” Franke said. “I think our discussion … centered around this was not a good economy to go back out. You’ve got a lot of people out of work. … and we had no idea how that vote was going to run.”

Not renewing a 16-cent levy would cost the agency approximately $390,000, staff said in December, and each penny adds an additional $25,000, Franke said. Using that math, the 29-cent levy would generate about $725,000 in revenue.

Kris Boyer, president of the International Association of Firefighters 2557 spoke up in support of renewing the 16-cent levy, as he did at December’s meeting.

“Personnel have been hired under the current levy expiring and we have a commitment to those employees who provide the services today,” Boyer said.

Jon Crow alleged the MCFD campaign had been dishonest with voters.

“That, to me, is absolute lying through that whole election,” added Crow, who said voters were told there would be no levy renewal.

“To be technically correct, that was true at that point in time,” Franke said.