Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

District puts off station decision

Future of Buena Vista site unclear

Joost Vanderhave

Joost Vanderhave

January 21, 2014

INDEPENDENCE — The Polk County Fire District No. 1 board of directors decided to table a decision on what to do with Station 40 in Buena Vista after Thursday night's meeting.

Several Buena Vista residents turned out to speak in favor of keeping the station open.

"We aren't doing this because we want to close stations," Board Chairman Joost Vanderhave said. "We went for a levy last November, which we failed. We have to look very carefully at our financial situation."

The fire district has been actively trying to recruit volunteers in the Buena Vista area, and has not been successful, Vanderhave noted.

"Maybe the issue was not very clear to the community yet," he said. "Be that as it may, we have you guys now here, so this is the time to discuss this and try and figure out how this should be resolved."

Roberta Runge presented an emotional plea for the station.

"My husband helped build that station," she said. "It was designed for sleepers (someone staying in the station overnight) to be put out there. I did not ever see that happen."

She asked that if the station is closed, that it could be used for a community center.

"That building is too nice to let it go," Runge said.

Steve Moser, former volunteer firefighter and Central School District board member, said the fire district would not save any money by closing the station, as it would still have to pay for the heat and maintenance.

"Volunteers come and go; they always do," he said.

Moser said the levy failed because the district has a bad public perception.

"If you're sitting here in a meeting saying we're looking really good (financially), why are you talking about a levy?" Moser said.

Vanderhave said the fire district is walking a very fine line financially.

"It's very tight, and in that tightness, it looks good. We can make it another year," he said. "But you can't take that idea that we have plenty of money and we can do whatever we want to do. We're very tight, and everyone turns it two times before we spend it."

Fire board member Terri Gregory said the board has been having discussions about the Buena Vista fire station for a long time, and appreciated the community response at Thursday's meeting.

The board decided to table any decision about Station 40's future until its Feb. 20 meeting, which will be held in Buena Vista's fire station at 7 p.m.

In other business, the board:

• Approved John Stein's contract for another 12 months, pending approval from the Special Districts Association of Oregon, who arranged the original contract with the interim fire chief.

What's the

Issue?

• Station 40 has two volunteers and one fire apparatus, a pickup used for grass fires. Board member Tom Henke said 90 percent of the time when a call comes in for that station, the response comes from Central Station 90 in Independence. Fire Chief John Stein said Engine 92, out of Central Station, arrives prior to the Buena Vista vehicle "a large majority of the time" because of a lack of volunteers. Efforts to recruit volunteers in Buena Vista have, so far, failed. Possible solutions presented include recruiting more volunteers, reducing station hours, temporarily closing the station, or permanently closing it.

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