The Warrenton Fire Protection District hosted the first of two town hall meetings last week at Warrenton Fire Station 2 to answer questions about a proposed $10 million bond issue. District leaders …
The Warrenton Fire Protection District hosted the first of two town hall meetings last week at Warrenton Fire Station 2 to answer questions about a proposed $10 million bond issue. District leaders presented their need for the bond and responded to community members’ questions and concerns during the town hall meeting.
The Warrenton Fire Protection District is seeking the $10 million bond from taxpayers at elections on April 4. The proposed bond would include a property tax increase with a 20-year sunset.
The bond would go in part towards helping the district purchase equipment and vehicles. Certain fire district vehicles cost over $1 million and take two to three years to acquire. District leaders said they would also look to use the bond on station upgrades and to pay off an existing debt. Constructed in 1993, Warrenton Fire Station 1 is in need of improvements, especially technology and security, explained Fire Chief Anthony Hayeslip.
The Fire Protection District anticipates it will use a majority of the $10 million in the first five to seven years of the bond.
“Most of these things, we’re working on a five to seven year plan to get these things purchased,” Chief Hayeslip said. “After that, it will just be paying those bonds off after that. We will have purchased everything that we need to get done in that first five to seven years.”
One source of community concern was how the Fire Protection District intends to spend the money, including the portion to pay off existing debt. The Fire Protection District currently has over $1.1 million outstanding on a bond that paid for the Warrenton Fire Station 2 building. That bond was paid for using the district’s operating revenue, rather than a separate voter-approved tax.
The district paid about $148,000 on the bond this year. With operating funds not tied to paying the bond, the Fire Protection District would plan to put that money back in its operating budget to be used for training and uniforms, among other things.
“Instead of us paying $150,000 out of the operating fund, it will alleviate that and let it back into operations,” Hayeslip said. “There’s so many areas that we’ve eliminated year after year because there wasn’t enough money to go around. Training usually takes the biggest hit.”
The Fire District was also asked about the need to replace vehicles approaching 200,000 miles. Hayeslip said while they could drive the vehicles “until the wheels fall off,” they need to have a plan for when that would occur. He stressed it is common practice for fire districts to use vehicles for 10 years and then keep the vehicle in reserve for another 10 years. The district’s newest vehicle is currently approaching its 10-year mark.
Warrenton Fire Protection District board member Donnie Owenby stressed fire district vehicles cannot be compared to standard vehicles.
“You can’t treat and respect a fire engine or a fire service vehicle like you would a personal vehicle,” Owenby said, explaining that operation stresses firefighting vehicles a lot quicker.
The Fire District was also pressed on its fundraising and community involvement. Officials received feedback that they would receive more community support on bonds if they participated in more community involvement.
Hayeslip replied that the Fire District does a strong amount of community outreach yearly.
“We do a significant amount of community outreach every year,” Hayeslip said. “These guys are doing CPR classes all over the area for different businesses.”
He added that firefighters participate in Warrenton’s downtown festivals. They also helped out with The Wall That Heals when it came to Warrenton.
The Warrenton Fire Protection District will hold a second town hall meeting at 10 a.m. April 1 at Fire Station 2, located on South Highway 47 in Warrenton.