The Wood River Fire Protection District passed an ordinance last month to send a $17 million general obligation bond to voters this fall to finance the construction of a new fire station on the north end of Hailey.

The bond election on Nov. 2 will ask residents within the district whether property taxes should be raised by an estimated $72.60 per $100,000 value over 25 years to build the station. The bond will need a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Wood River Fire & Rescue personnel are currently stationed at Station 1 on Walnut Street in Hailey—adjacent to the Old County Courthouse and owned by Blaine County—and its own Station 3, south of Bellevue. Station 2, located on Third Avenue next to the Hailey Police Department headquarters, is owned by the city of Hailey and is used to store fire and rescue equipment, WRFR Chief Ron Bateman said.

“We don’t ‘live’ out of Station 2,” Bateman said. “It’s problematic to have a needed fire apparatus six blocks away.”

The chief said that Station 1 at 117 Walnut St. in Hailey lacks apparatus space and is too small to comfortably sleep three firefighters.

“The bays in Station 1 are narrow and not very deep. We can’t even wash the ambulances inside, as there is less than two feet on either side of the vehicle,” Bateman said. “Hardly an issue in July, but a very large one in January.

“We don’t have much room for personnel in Station 1. If we have a third person on duty, then they are [sleeping] on a Murphy bed mere feet from the kitchen table.”

A 2011 study by Emergency Services Consulting International identified a better location on North River Street in Hailey, south of the Life Church, he said.

“This [location] would help our response time to the areas in the northern part of our district, like Starweather. But since we have personnel at our Station 3, it would not compromise Bellevue and Woodside,” Bateman said.

Building a new station on the north end of town would mean that the district would no longer need Stations 1 and 2; those facilities could be returned to Blaine County and the city of Hailey for other uses, according to Bateman.

“From sitting in on Blaine County Commissioner meetings, I know they do have the need for more room on their campus in Hailey. My guess is that they could really use the space,” Bateman said.

The district’s bond measure aims to generate approximately $967,200 per year for the new station. For a property of $500,000, the tax increase associated with the bond comes down to $363 annually and about $9,070 over a 25-year period.

The anticipated interest rate on the general obligation bonds that would be issued is 2.74% per year, based on current market trends, according to the district. The total amount to be repaid over the 25-year life of the bond would be approximately $24.2 million, with $17 million in principal and about $7.2 million in interest.

The Wood River Fire Protection District currently serves over 1,400 households in Blaine County, according to Blaine County Assessor Joanne Freeman. The total assessed value for the district for this upcoming fiscal year is $1.3 billion, Bateman said.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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