Did Arcata Fire’s name doom Measure R?

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

ARCATA/McKINLEYVILLE – It’s possible that  the Arcata Fire District’s name – and some of the confusion it causes – played a role in the failure of Measure R.

AFD Battalion Chief Sean Campbell mentioned this at a recent meeting of the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee, noting that it’s not unusual to come across people who think that AFD is part of the City of Arcata.

It’s not. The AFD is its own district, and serves Arcata, McKinleyville, Bayside and Manila.

But on March 3, when voters went to the polls, Arcatans overwhelmingly supported the measure, but voters in McKinleyville and Manila showed significantly less support for the property tax.

The AFD Board of Directors reviewed the precinct results at its May 12 meeting, and briefly discussed whether to pursue another ballot measure in November.

“Per the County’s final report, Measure R garnered 63.7 percent yes votes, narrowly missing the required two-thirds vote threshold by 3 percent, or 427 votes,” stated a staff report to the AFD board.

AFD Fire Chief Justin McDonald broke down the votes by area:

• 71.91 percent approval for City of Arcata

• 57.8 percent for West End & Arcata Bottoms area

• 59.43 percent for Bayside/Jacoby Creek area

• 54.09 percent for Manila area

• 55.55 percent for McKinleyville area

The district wanted the property tax measure to plug a budget deficit and to keep enough staffing to  keep all three of its stations open. With the measure’s failure, the district has downsized, left positions unfilled and is now closing one of its three stations on rotation.

The McKinleyville Station is located at 2149 Central Ave., the Mad River Station at 3235 Janes Rd. in Arcata and the Arcata Downtown Station at 631 Ninth St. in Arcata.

“I’ve heard from some folks up here in McKinleyville that they’re not happy with the station being closed,” said McDonald during the May 12 meeting, held remotely using Zoom.

Board member Rene Campbell said she has heard from people who think the station closures are punishment for the voters failing to pass Measure R. “That’s not true. That’s not accurate,” Campbell said about the allegations.

The reason for the closures is because there’s not enough money to staff the stations. The board decided that rotating the closures would be the fairest method.

“There is a lot of public education we need to do,” said board member Randy Mendosa.

If the board decides to put another measure on the November ballot, it will need to do so in June.



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