Fire team

Team in front of nearly 30-year-old fire engine. Brian Smith, Cannon Beach Fire Fighters Association; Mark Mekenas, fire district board; Shaunna White, training officer; and Chief Matt Benedict.

Fire Chief Matt Benedict wants the Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District to be one of the premier districts on the Oregon Coast. To that end, a major roof repair, replacing unsafe response trucks and the 25-year-old fire engine are all on the district’s wish list.

One way to bring those to Cannon Beach, Benedict said at the Monday, March 11, fire district board of directors meeting, could be an operations levy.

Adapted from a 2003 strategic plan, a new levy could bring the district’s tax rate more in line with other, similar-sized districts and pay for new equipment.

Cannon Beach pays a lower rate than any district in the county, even when looking at property values, Benedict said.

District residents currently pay around $.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

By comparison, Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District rates are closer to $3 per $1,000 with the permanent rate almost five times greater than Cannon Beach.

Benedict wants to upgrade the current fleet of incident response trucks to diesel Ford F250s over the next few years, partly to make the district fleet more uniform and partly because the district already owns a diesel fuel tank which can run the trucks in case of an emergency, reducing the strain on the single gas station in town.

With potential revenues from annexation of Cape Falcon in Tillamook County at the request of the residents still years away, Benedict said an operations levy would meet immediate needs.

Board members asked Benedict to look at other funding sources, including billing insurance companies for traffic incidents from nondistrict visitors, or relying on the Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue Association.

The association recently purchased over $15,000 in new equipment for the district including a new extractor and carbon monoxide detectors to replace the outdated equipment.

The association raises almost $40,000 annually on behalf of the district through its ham dinner and other fundraisers.

Board chairman Garry Smith was among a majority of board members rejecting the operations levy option, saying that the title was “too broad” and that he didn’t think this approach was the best way to stabilize funding. Only board member Mark Mekenas voted in support.

While the fire truck failed to find funding at Monday’s meeting, the board did approve the purchase of a Ford pickup.

The new F250, the purchase of which was approved by the board, will be used by Benedict allowing his current vehicle to be transferred to new hire Shaunna White who manages the volunteer fire corps, a group of citizens assisting the district on tasks like flagging during traffic incidents.

Ultimately Benedict envisions a new F250 truck for White with the oldest F250 moving to Arch Cape to support the volunteer Fire Corps members.

“I almost have to commend the district on doing this with the small amount we do get,” Smith said.

After the meeting, Benedict said he was unsure on the future of the operations levy and will wait and see what develops.

As for the fire engine, Benedict and the board will hold future discussion on what needs to be done for replacement.

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