Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The county’s Board of Supervisors is supporting the Arcata Fire District’s Measure F property tax, stating that the greater McKinleyville area will be “at risk” without the funding.
Sponsored by supervisors Steve Madrone and Mike Wilson, a letter supporting the tax measure addressed to the district’s chief, Justin McDonald, was approved at the Aug.18 board meeting.
Measure F needs a two-thirds majority vote in the Nov. 3 election to be approved. It seeks to raise $2.2 million a year for 10 years to fill vacant firefighter positions, raise money for equipment and maintenance, and replenish emergency reserves.
“As an unincorporated area, McKinleyville relies on the Arcata Fire District’s services to keep the community safe,” writes Board Chair Estelle Fennell, who signed the letter. “Without the passage of AFD’s upcoming ballot measure, the new state of the art fire station in McKinleyville would remain open only part of the time and without full-time firefighter coverage, putting McKinleyville and the larger community at risk.”
Fennell adds that the board is hoping that with community-based education, “Voters will better understand the importance of this ballot measure and vote to enable AFD to fully open the McKinleyville Fire Station and restore the required staffing levels to keep the McKinleyville Fire Station open.”
The letter was part of the meeting’s consent agenda of routine items and was unanimously approved.
But not without some debate. Kent Sawatzky of the Humboldt Taxpayers League said his group has supported or been neutral on tax measures in Trinidad, Fortuna and Eureka but opposes the district’s measure.
“The only tax of any consequence that we feel is inappropriate is the Arcata Fire District tax,” he said.
He questioned why the district doesn’t have greater volunteer firefighting capability. “Why don’t we have a volunteer fire department that can help out?” he asked. “If someone was suspicious, they would say you have very powerful (firefighters) union there and they don’t want competition.”
Sawatzky added that the importance of the new station in McKinleyville is overstated in the letter. “It totally didn’t need to happen, this is ridiculous,” he said of the station’s construction.
But Maya Conrad of the McKinleyville Municipal Community Advisory Committee, which requested a letter of support, said that if the measure isn’t approved, “Our new state of the art fire station would only be open part of the time and we have over 15,000 residents to keep safe.”
Reiterating that the community would be “at risk” without full time coverage, Conrad said that “by supporting this ballot measure, the Board of Supervisors is sending a clear message about how vital this service is to this community.”
Supervisors approved the letter along with the rest of the consent agenda, without commenting on it.