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Issues:  An Informed Public

 

AN ISSUE OF CONSEQUENCE TO ADDRESS THEN COUNTY PROPOSES FORMING A RFPD

III.   AN INFORMED PUBLIC

Brochure 10C of 16 in Rural Fire Protection Brochure Series

May 22, 2008
by
Exploratory Committee

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Issue Of Consequence: An Informed Public

Issue The issue is about the informational process adopted by the Josephine County Board of County Commissioners’ (BCC) to propose a county-wide Rural Fire Protection District (RFPD), the Mid-Rogue RFPD, to the voters on the November 2008 ballot.1

Informed Public Voters will cast ballots of long lasting consequences, for or against the Mid-Rogue RFPD, that will decide the fate of public structural fire service. Meaningful public involvement provides voters transparency of all relevant information to be fully aware of fire service quality standards, system design, administrative organization, implementation costs, annual operating costs, and the expected tax rate voters will pay for these RFPD services. It requires the following relevant facts.

• Boundary(s) Rationale (i.e., county-wide and local)

• Quality of Structural Fire Service by ISO Classification & NFPA Standards

• Number & Location Of Fire Stations

• Equipment & Personnel Requirements

• Economic Feasibility Statement & Tax Rate

• Board of Directors Fire & Admin. Qualifications

The relevant facts needed for the BCC to propose an RFPD on the ballot are covered by the "citizen" petition requirements identified in ORS 198.748, ORS 198.749, and ORS 198.750. These citizen requirements are not, by law, requirements of the BCC under the authority of ORS 198.835. However, they are required of citizens if they want to propose a local RFPD, and they give full exhaustive disclosure to citizens of the purpose, scope, service quality and design, location of stations, personnel requirements and the tax rate for financial stability.

JO CO Order No. 2008-17 - Proposed Mid-Rogue RFPD (A Taxing District)

Proposed RFPD On May 7, 2008 the BCC voted 2-1 to approve Josephine County Order No. 2008-017 under the authority of ORS 478 and ORS 198.835 which proposes the county-wide Mid-Rogue RFPD recommended by the county’s Fire Protection Committee. This order proposes a RFPD boundary without a tax rate. The BCC scheduled a June 11, 2008 public hearing for public comment on the order.

Josephine County Order No. 2008-017

"WHEREAS, it appearing to the Board of County Commissioners that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Josephine County to provide for formation of a rural fire protection district in the areas of Josephine County that are currently unprotected by fire services, effective upon the approval of the voters at the November 8, 2008 general election, . . ."

The order proposes establishing a RFPD and its boundary, but no tax rate. This proposal, if passed, does not address a probable May 2009 request to voters to approve a permanent annual tax rate for the cost of operating the RFPD. We believe this skeleton proposal does not meet the goal of an informed public. The BCC, as the sponsor to create the Mid-Rogue RFPD, has the burden of proof to demonstrate the need for the RFPD, including the relevant facts.

Recommendation: Clarify The Proposal For A Mid-Rogue RFPD

County Order The BCC’s purpose is to provide fire protection in areas of rural Josephine County desig-nated as "unprotected by fire services" within the 2004 Josephine County Integrated Fire Plan (JCIFP). The mission of the JCIFP is to reduce the risk of wildfire to life, property, and natural resources in the county (page 5, JCIFP). The mission does refer to wildfire, but does not refer to structural fire protec-tion. The JCIFP’s larger story follows: "While a number of Josephine County’s communities are listed as "unprotected," it is important to note that these communities are NOT without fire service. Rural/Metro Fire Department provides contract structural fire protection services in the unprotected areas of Josephine County" (pages vi; 46-47). Two other private fire departments also provide structural fire protection services in the unprotected area: Inland Fire Protection Agency and Grants Pass Rural Fire Department.

Recommendation If the BCC continues to propose a county-wide RFPD for the November 2008 ballot, it should also promote an "informed public" by sharing the "problem" of the unprotected area (i.e., fire service impacts in the county that are different for private fire departments and RFPDs). This information is not presently provided in Order No. 2008-017. It should also provide in the order the economic feasibility information identified in ORS 198.748 through ORS 198.750 to support its proposed Mid-Rogue RFPD.

Want more information? Contact a member of the Exploratory Committee.2

RFPD Exploratory Committee’s Mission

Mission An independent Rural Fire Protection District (RFPD) Exploratory Committee (Exploratory Committee) to investigate the potential for forming a RFPD in the general Merlin-Hugo region was formed in the fall of 2007.

Big picture ideas for the exploratory effort include the following.

1. Identifying a range of boundaries for potential RFPD(s).

2. Identifying a range in level of services from potential RFPD(s).

3. Identifying a range of fees or assessments for services from potential RFPD(s).

4. Identifying revenues for services from potential RFPD(s).

The ultimate goal is a higher level of fire protection service for a lower cost.

The purpose of the Exploratory Committee is to gather information adequate enough to understand the rules/process to form a potential RFPD (i.e., rules, difficulty, pros and cons, levels of service, fees/assessments, elections, etc.). This includes educational outreach efforts.

The Exploratory Committee’s purpose is limited to investigating and researching the potential (i.e., merits and liabilities) for forming a RFPD. Other potential actions will be considered and acted upon by other entities after the Exploratory Committee’s purpose has ended.

- Donations Are Not Tax Deductible -

Edited by Exploratory Committee

http://www.jeffnet.org/~hugo/existing1.htm

1. This issue about an "Informed Public" is one of several issues covered in brochures 10A & 10B (Exploratory Committee. June 2008. Issues Of Consequence To Address When Forming A RFPD: I & II. Hugo, OR.

2. More information is provided in the Exploratory Committee’s educational outreach program of 16 brochures.

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2012 Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society