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Bismarck fire board puts tax issue on ballot

BISMARCK – The Bismarck Rural Fire Protection Association Board of Directors has voted to put a fire district tax proposal on the April 2006 ballot.

Bismarck Deputy Chief Chris Gibbons said the tax has failed in two prior attempts and the fire department will not survive without it.

If this issues passes, property owners will not have to purchase fire tags again.

“The fire district tax will be paid with your taxes each year and the majority of the citizens will pay less for the tax than they would for the $45 they pay for fire tags each year,” he said. “It can save most people money.”

The fire department has seen a dramatic increase in emergency calls in the past five years. The added cost of insurance, fuel, fire truck payments, the high cost in fire equipment, and low number of fire tags has again made the department seek alternate funding.

Gibbons said the fire departments that surround Bismarck except Park Hills are fire protection districts that receive steady funding from a fire district tax.

“We see other departments with good equipment that does not break down as often as ours and see them have up-to-date safety equipment as we are still doing everything we can just to respond to calls,” he said.

“We have spent so much time to find ways to secure funding that we have lost focus on firefighter training. The training that keeps our firefighters alive has taken the back burner. It’s not fair that someone volunteers time to protect the community and has to fight just to have money for fuel in the fire trucks.”

He said they have worked very hard to get a low ISO rating to keep the cost of fire insurance down for district residents.

“We respond to medical emergency calls and citizens don’t get charged nor do they have to prepay for that service,” he said. “Fire tags secure fire protection only (and) do not cover the response for medical emergency calls.”

Gibbons said if this fire district tax does not pass and the fire department does not receive the funding it so desperately needs, the fire department then will have to stop responding to medical emergency calls immediately.

“What if you call 9-1-1 and nobody shows up?” Gibbons asked. “The firefighters are asking citizens, ‘help us help you,’ before it’s too late.”

The fire department has had a couple fund-raisers this past month to raise money so that they can finish the year ahead. One of the fund-raisers was a county-wide effort that raised $2,500.

Before the fund-raisers, the rural department, which is separate from the city department, faced a $6,000 shortfall. Since then, there have also been several emergency repairs that were needed for their fire trucks.

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