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Major changes following levy failure

BISMARCK – Leaders of the Bismarck Fire Department foresee some major changes now that the fire levy has failed again.

According to unofficial results from St. Francois and Washington counties, there were 397 votes for the issue and 442 against it. It needed a simple majority to pass.

The issue was supported in Washington County precincts with 32 yes votes and 28 no votes. It was also supported in Iron Mountain where it received 104 votes or 55 percent supporting the issue.

Both Bismarck precincts voted it down. Bismarck 1 precinct had 183 votes or 57 percent against it. Bismarck 2 precinct had 128 or 54 percent against it. Frankclay had nine votes or 55 percent against while Leadwood 2 had two votes or 100 percent against. There were only 11 absentee votes – eight for and three against.

Last week, the board of directors met to discuss what actions they would take if the levy failed.

According to a press release issued last week, the board of directors in a formal motion made a binding agreement to drop insurance coverage on all the fire trucks the fire department owns and take all of them out of service except one pumper. It was said the decision was unanimous and the board of directors had to makes these cuts in order to survive at all.

The fire department will not only drop to one fire truck, but will no longer respond to any type of medical emergency. &#8220This was one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make,” said Charlie Crawford, president of the board.

The board of directors also changed the price of fire tags for 2007. It’s now broke down for residential and commercial.

Residential fire tags will be $65 if purchased before February 1 of that calendar year and $85 after that.

Commercial tags will be $150 if purchased before February 1 of that calendar year and $200 after that.

&#8220Having only one fire truck for a house fire is a grave situation for firefighters and the public, especially if someone is trapped inside while the house is on fire,” Crawford said. &#8220… It’s just not fair for anyone not to have the fire department when you have an emergency.”

Last week, they said this policy will go into place April 11 if the levy did fail.

Crawford said these cuts will be noticed on the fire insurance of every homeowner. This will affect the ISO rating in the city and the rural area.

The levy would have eliminated the fire tag system in the rural part of the district. It would have also combined the rural and city departments.

For months now, officials have publicly stated the rural fire department is struggling to the point it may not survive. The rural department began struggling to survive last year because many people aren’t purchasing fire tags.

&#8220We can’t make someone buy a fire tag,” Deputy Chief Chris Gibbons has said.

The newest truck they have is a 1987, which is the city’s only truck. They are having problems with almost all their trucks and they do not have the money to make repairs or upgrades.

They planned to use the levy to update their equipment, and add more firefighters to their roster.

Gibbons said if they passed the levy, they would eventually be able to drop their ISO rating at least one point, saving property owners substantial money on fire insurance.

In the past few years, voters passed an issue making the rural fire department a &#8220fire protection district.” However, voters did not pass the fire district tax that would replace fire tags.

The Daily Journal attempted to contact both Gibbons and Crawford but they did not want to comment.

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