LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Answers needed on NW bonds

I love our Northwest fire department and its dedicated paid and volunteer firefighters. I’ve always voted yes for NW, most recently in November 2013. But the two proposals totaling $10.5 million raise some questions.

My questions come from the 2013 proposal that voters overwhelmingly approved, what actually happened, and what now is being said about Propositions 1 and 2.

QUESTION: The 2013 measure was explained as paying to build and equip three new fire stations. So where are the new stations? How was the money used instead?

QUESTION: The 2013 election ballot said that “in no event shall the entire indebtedness exceed $1,000,000”. So why did NW approve going more than $2 million in debt to buy new fire trucks in March 2016 without first seeking voter approval to raise the debt ceiling?

QUESTION: Voters now are told that Proposition 1 is just an extension of the 2013 tax. How does that make sense? The 2013 issue capped “entire indebtedness” at $1 million. But the new plan lasts 10 years, limits debt “outstanding at any one time” to $3 million, and allows annual payments up to $500,000 a year. Why are those amounts needed, since the new trucks with interest cost just $2.08 million with 10 annual lease-purchase payments of just over $208,000—after which the district will own the trucks free and clear?

QUESTION: If we needed three new satellite stations five years ago to cover growth areas, why do we now need only two? Why are they at the bottom of the priority list for Proposition 2 and will “only be undertaken if operational funds are sufficient”? The 2013 campaign said the three new stations would lower property insurance bills. So why are new stations given just $500,000 of the $7.5 million in Proposition 2?

QUESTION: How were the existing stations neglected so badly that they have to be replaced for $7 million?

I want to vote yes and support our great fire department. But I want to know that my tax dollars will be spent on the promised capital improvements and not squandered on extravagant extras.

I’ve gladly paid fire taxes for 33 years. I’ll gladly support increases when needed. I just need some answers.

~Faith Wylie

As most know, today’s firefighters aren’t typical rescue-your-kitty and put-out-a-house-fire heroes of the past. Firefighters today, first responders, are so much more. They extract your daughters from a crushed car. They’ll rescue your dad from his boat in the middle of the lake when he has a heart attack. They’ll save your babies from a burning house when flames and smoke are so thick that you can’t. They’ll stay out all night watching hay bales burn to save your momma’s house. They’ll stand at your gate with a hose to save your cattle in a wildfire. They’ll be there every time you need them. And...Oh...the things we don’t discuss! The baby ejected from a car, who slid 40 yards on her face; somebody’s Nana burned in a fire reported way too late; the drowning victim extracted from the bottom of a lake or pond with a metal hook and radar. Then there’s the vomiting, crying and sleepless nights trying to process the sounds, sights and smells that are beyond our nightmares. These heroes risk everything to save everything that matters to you. They’re NOT asking for 5-star accommodations or The Taj Mahal. They’re asking for warm twin beds, a place to train, and a media room to relax and process those gruesome things they witness; a kitchen and some offices; new bays and no leaks. And even a little room to grow. What’s your price, if it’s your family? What’s it worth to you? They’re asking you for $40 or $100 or $200/year. They will be there every time you need them. Every. Single. Time. What would you ask them to do without, despite what they do for you? Vote yes on Propositions 1 & 2 on April 3rd!

~Holly S. Baker

On April 3, we are being asked to pay more when we want to pay less. Prop 1 and 2. Those innocuous red and white signs dotting lawns around town make the issue seem simple, yet the stakes are high. The questions swirled around at the informational meeting Monday night. “Why can’t the firefighters move back into the old stations? Could they not be renovated for less? How could new stations cost so much? How can the board ensure the stations will be maintained?”

To answer, we go back 30 years. The stations were built with needs of a volunteer fire department in mind. The population grew. The department transitioned to paid. Technology improved, and the nature and severity of calls evolved. The needs of today look drastically different than those of decades ago. Even if the stations were in usable condition there are many necessary improvements. Between the damage from time, black mold, and remediation efforts; renovating the current stations is not the answer. A professional site survey has confirmed this and results are open to the public. Make a phone call to the station or better yet, take a tour. I cannot speak to the past administration. Currently there are some good men involved that are committed to ensuring that the buildings are properly built and maintained.

As to the cost efficiency, please see information on the Northwest Fire Facebook page. Earlier I mentioned that the stakes are high. When my husband became a firefighter, we accepted the obvious risks and the low pay. What I never expected was that his health would be in jeopardy at the fire station. For all of us tax payers, we are looking at nominal increase. But, what price could you even put on your loved one? My husband holds three jobs to make ends meet. This just includes the basics for a family of five, so I do not take this lightly. For the future of ourselves and our firefighters, I implore you, vote yes. I vote yes for your family every day. Please, now I ask you to vote yes to mine!

~Melissa Gibson

Oologah Lake Leader

 

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