Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Sept. 11 @ 5:59 p.m.
Crescent City Councilors Approve Proposed Fire Protection District Property Assessments For Hybrid Department
Voting is their job, but on Tuesday Crescent City Councilors made a decision both as elected officials and as property owners within the Crescent Fire Protection District.
The Council unanimously voted yes on ballots the fire protection district sent to properties outside within its jurisdiction. These properties include booster stations at Wonder Stump Road and Railroad Avenue and parcels associated with a 1.5 million gallon water storage tank on Amador Street and a 4 million gallon water storage tank on Washington Boulevard.
All four properties are associated with the city’s water system, but are outside its boundaries, City Manager Eric Wier said. If property owners within the fire protection district approves the proposed assessment next month, the city would pay an annual total of $325.60 for the four water system properties, Wier said.
The Crescent Fire Protection District Board of Directors mailed ballots to its constituents last week asking them to approve a property assessment that would replace a 2006 assessment that sunsets in 2021.
The ballot proposes assigning an annual rate of $74 to single-family homes within the fire protection district for services. The proposed rate would be in addition to a 1987 assessment fo ra single-family home of $98 annually, according to the Crescent Fire Protection District.
If approved, the measure would also establish a seven-member citizens oversight committee made up of property owners within the fire protection district, according to the staff report.
According to Wier, the proposed assessment would cost the city $81.40 per property per year, — the proposed rate for commercial properties.
The Crescent Fire Protection District decided to move forward with asking its constituents to approve an additional property tax assessment to help it move toward implementing a hybrid fire department using paid staff and volunteers. This goal was outlined in a master plan and also includes Crescent City Fire & Rescue, which operates within city limits.
In a November 2019 presentation to both the City Council and the Fire Protection District Board of Directors, Colette Metz, of PlanWest Partners, said realizing the master plan would cost a total of $662,000. Crescent City’s cost would be $307,000 and the Fire Protection District’s portion would be $355,000, she told both boards.
The hybrid department would create a sleeper program in which three paid captains would oversee a crew of volunteers on call for 24 hour shifts, Gillespie said. If the 2006 assessment isn’t replaced, when it expires the district would be left with just two to three years of operational capital, he said.
“Right now, we’re just in the month of September and we’re at well over 60 calls for service and it’s only the 8th,” Gillespie said. “In August we responded to 209 calls for service between the city and the district. In July, 219. We’re well on the path to eclipse 2,000 calls for service again this year.”
According to Gillespie, the engineer’s report the Crescent Fire Protection District Board of Directors based its decision to propose a property tax assessment to address increased calls for service noted that in the past government properties hadn’t been assessed.
The Fire Protection District Board of Directors decided to include government entities in the proposed assessment reasoning that they do receive the same benefits other property owners receive, Gillespie said.
“They realized there was a whole host of properties you would think fell under an assessment — restaurants on the waterfront, industrial locations along the waterfront, a number of businesses that were exempted because they were owned by a government agency,” he said. “In the past, we have had responses to a number of previously or currently exempted facilities along the waterfront, in the harbor district and, including some of the properties that are listed tonight for consideration.”
The voting period for the Fire Protection District’s proposed property tax assessment ends Oct. 12, Gillespie said. The district will hold a public hearing that evening and will use a third party to tally the votes and report the results to the Board of Directors, he said.
The proposed property tax assessment voting period ends about a month before Crescent City residents vote on Measure S. The proposed 1 percent sales tax increase would help the city pay for its portion of realizing the hybrid fire department plan, address staffing issues within the Crescent City Police Department, pay for road repairs and ensure the Fred Endert Municipal Pool is sustainable.