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Foothills Fire will ask voters for a bond and a mill levy increase, so it can purchase property and build a fire station to help decrease response times to emergencies.
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The Foothills Fire Protection District will ask voters for a bond and a mill levy increase, so it can purchase property and build a fire station to help decrease response times to emergencies.
The questions, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, is the first time the department has asked voters for a property tax increase since Foothills was formed in 1997. The department will ask for nearly $13 million total, and if approved, homeowners would pay about $54 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of a $500,000 home would pay an additional $270 in property taxes each year.
The department hopes to acquire property in Paradise Hills, which is in the middle of the district, for a new station, paid for by the bond, and it would become the department’s headquarters. It is asking for a 1 mill increase to pay for department operations including maintenance of the new station.
Foothills is moving forward with planning for a new station despite comments from a developer that he would build the department a facility to replace the station in El Rancho as part of the proposed Gateway development. Fire Chief Alan Anderson said he is not confident the developer will be able to build a new station in the forseeable future, and the district needs a new station sooner rather than later.
The department’s stations are old — one of them is 70 years old — and don’t have up-to-date safety measures for firefighters, Anderson said. In addition, he said a new station would include a place for a volunteer firefighter to live, so the firefighter could be faster leaving for emergency calls.
Currently, when a call comes in, firefighters must drive to the station to pick up fire trucks and apparatus before heading to a call.
The Foothills volunteer department has roots that go back decades. It was formed in 1997 when Mount Vernon, Idledale and Lookout Mountain fire departments combined to create a larger district that encompasses 25 square miles. It currently has four fire stations: El Rancho, Lookout Mountain, Idledale and Grapevine, which is near I-70 and exit 256.
The department had a fifth station that it closed last year when it lost the lease for the building. The fire department headquarters in El Rancho is actually a double-wide trailer.
Board President Duey Freeman noted that a new station would serve the department for the next 50 years, estimating that population growth would continue, so the need for emergency services would continue to increase.
The board agreed it was important to get the word out to constituents, and Anderson said he would meet with homeowners associations and other groups to explain the proposal and its benefits to the community. Plus, the department will mail information to district residents.
The board has hired OZ Architecture in Denver to design the proposed station. Anderson noted that he hoped the district could afford to build a 14,000-square-foot fire station, but with increasing construction costs, the proposed building will be smaller with room for additions in the future.
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