We all know that freedom and liberty are  not free. Neither is public safety. There is a cost for the personnel, the equipment, the infrastructure and the organization, especially for fire and medical services.

The Keizer Fire District is requesting district voters approve a 59 cents per $1,000 valuation five-year levy in the upcoming November 5 election. We agree, as should voters.

The district’s current 35 cent levy is expiring and it needs to be replaced. The board of directors of the Keizer Fire District don’t ask for this levy lightly. They understand the realities of politics and taxation today; they also intimately understand the realities of operating an organization that people expect to respond to their fire and medical emergencies.

There are costs of which the fire district has no control, namely health insurance and PERS, neither of which are going down anytime soon. Add to that decreased Medicare ambulance reimbursement and increased 9-1-1 costs and it becomes apparent that the levy is necessary to maintain services and assure the quick response Keizer residents have come to expect.

Statistics show that the Keizer Fire District is able to respond to emergencies within six minutes 95 percent of the time. Ask anyone in Keizer whose family member has benefited from that kind of response if it is important and they’ll resoundingly say yes. With about 4,000 medical responses a year the Keizer Fire District is key to the people who live here. Minutes  matter when a person is suffering from a heart attack or other sudden health emergency.

How does passing the levy affect the response time? Ambulance service is expensive to operate; Medicare has traditionally reimbursed the cost not borne by the patient.  But Medicare payments do not come close to covering the total cost of transferring a patient. The balance is paid from the fire district’s budget. Without an operating levy the cost of ambulance service would be prohibitive; Keizer emergencies would have to rely on neighboring fire and EMT services—that’s when the six minute response 95 percent of the time goes out the window.

Approval of the 59 cent levy will assure that Keizer Fire has two staffed ambulances covering the city 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The thing about emergencies is we never know when they’ll occur. Knowing  an ambulance is  six minutes away or less provides a lot of peace of mind.

The business community should especially support the levy. A fire district with limited or no ambulance service of its own is subject to an increased rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). That’s the organization that evaluates fire departments and districts across the country giving each a ranking of 1 to 10, one being the best, 10 the worst. Keizer currently is ranked a 2 (there are few, if any in the country that rates a 1). The ISO rating affects the insurance rates for both businesses and homes in the evaluated area.

Keizer Fire District residents should vote to approve Measure 24-353 to maintain quick emergency response times, cope with increasing costs the district has no control over:  health insurance, PERS and 9-1-1 services.

Fire and medical emergency services are areas that the people have a direct say in how well it is funded.  Passage of the fire levy is the ultimate self interest vote. The mantra of no taxes should not extend to the safety and security of our lives and our homes.

A yes vote on the fire levy is the the right thing to do for ourselves, our families, our kids and our community.

–  —LAZ