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Your money, or your life?

by DON BRADWAY/Guest Opinion
| October 30, 2021 1:00 AM

On Oct. 21, a front-page article told us about Mr. Glen Seely’s fight against the upcoming vote on the Northern Lakes Fire District’s proposed levy increase. Mr. Seely’s focus is on the money that will be raised by the levy and how it will be used. He has delved into the fire district’s financials and seems to be convinced their “income” isn’t being spent properly.

The problem is, Mr. Seely seems to be focused on how the money is being used, using “old” budget numbers, and he doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that times are changing, as are the fire district’s call loads. We are watching the rapid increase in our population and with that growth comes the realized potential for a corresponding increase in emergency calls with 80% of those being calls for emergency medical treatment! One major problem is that the NLFD doesn’t have the necessary number of personnel to answer all of those calls. Impact fees are being discussed but those monies cannot be used to pay salaries, just “capital improvement,” such as fire stations and fire engines. Chief Pat Riley has been saving money from each year’s budget to be used to purchase the needed equipment but without the personnel to man that equipment, it will sit unused. The levy will provide the money to hire 12 firefighter-paramedics who would then be able to utilize the new equipment.

The call volume has increased to the point that there may not be available emergency equipment to respond to a structure fire when that equipment is on scene of another fire, major traffic accident or serious medical emergency. One would hope that Mr. Seely’s house wasn’t on fire or that he was having a major medical issue when the needed emergency equipment was tasked with extinguishing another structure fire or saving someone else’s life. Response times are long enough as is and having to call for emergency equipment from another department will only lengthen that response time.

Mr. Seely is also advocating for a consolidation of the NLFD and Kootenai County Fire & Rescue. Perhaps if he had investigated that cost, he’d have found out that the current NLFD levy would have to be increased from $.96 to $1.52. Both department boards of directors would have agree to the consolidation, despite what the voters might want. I don’t think there are too many of us who like that idea.

Fire departments are a “business” but their business is saving lives and property. Those efforts require trained personnel and that’s what this safety levy will provide.

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Don Bradway is a Garwood resident.

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