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Fire district hopes to raise funds through increased tax

By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The Newcastle Fire Protection District sent out 1,481 surveys to residents within the district to test the waters about a potential increase in the tax paid for fire protection. A letter writer identifying themselves as Rocky Robinson recently wrote a letter to the Journal asking several questions about the survey, including how it would improve emergency response times and how it would help the current fire risk rating. Bob Stearns, chairman of the fire district board, said the surveys are statistical and are attempting to find out what increase residents would be willing to pay, if any. The additional funds would go toward the construction of a new firehouse and increasing firefighter wages, he said. Stearns said insurance companies bill residents according to ISO, or Insurance Services Office, standards, and the higher the rating on a scale of 10, the higher the fire risk and insurance bill. Stearns said in terms of fire protection, an ISO rating can go up or down for a number of reasons, including how close one lives to a fire station. If residents approve the tax increase, which would eventually go on a mail-out ballot if survey feedback is positive, ISO ratings could possibly go down because the tax would help fund the new station. Stearns said if the district has to close and another fire company was needed for the area, response times would go up and so would the ISO ratings. In the letter to the Journal, Robinson asked what happened to the fire truck stationed at Scotts Corner. Stearns said there were a number of reasons why that post had to be shut down, one being that sometimes there was only one firefighter to man it. “That station we had to close down a few years ago because first we didn’t have the personnel to manage it … and now the fire laws require a minimum of two people (at a station),” he said. “And also the building there, the water was contaminated … so we had to bring in bottled water for our firefighters to use. And the roof leaked like crazy and nobody wanted to pay to have the roof fixed. So, it was just economical for us to move out of there at that time.” Robinson asked why the residents along Shirland Tract are served by Newcastle Fire rather than the Auburn Fire Department, which has the Maidu Station close by. “The residents of Shirland Tract chose to annex with the Newcastle Fire Protection District … because we can respond quicker to most areas … even though it’s closer to Auburn,” Stearns said. “That Maidu Station is not a manned station anyway.” Stearns encouraged residents to return their surveys as soon as possible so the district can get an idea of how they feel about the possible tax increase. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com