Alfalfa fire district closer to reality. •

Tax levy is expected to appear on ballot this fall, after Deschutes County’s 3-0 vote
By Shelby R. King/ The Bulletin
Alfalfa residents erupted in applause Wednesday when Alan Unger, chairman of the Deschutes County Commission, announced approval of an order to establish a fire district to serve the small, east county community.

Order 2013-023, approved 3-0 by the commission, proposes a tax rate of up to $1.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The levy is expected to appear on the November ballot and, if approved by voters, Alfalfa residents will start paying the tax in July 2014 and collecting revenue in November 2014.

This was the first of two public hearings. The second is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Alfalfa Community Hall, 25070 Alfalfa Market Road. The community 16 miles east of Bend is without fire protection.

About 15 people, David Warren among them, showed up to support formation of the fire protection district. Warren, an Alfalfa resident, has worked more than a year to organize and gather signatures for the petition to create the district. ““There is nothing more eye-opening and humbling than realizing how powerful a fire is and how helpless you can be,” he said. ““I personally saw one neighbor’s house, and another neighbor’s shop, completely destroyed by fire.” Warren said he believed if a fire department had been available to respond to the two fires, both of the buildings could likely have been saved.

The commission in May accepted a petition — signed by 237 Alfalfa residents, of which 137 were confirmed by the County Clerk as valid signatures — requesting the formation of a volunteer fire district. County attorney Laurie Craghead, said she’s never seen that many signatures on that type of petition; “its organizers have “really thought this through.”

The proposed district is an 8-mile by 8-mile, nearly square area that encompasses the town of Alfalfa and straddles the Crook-Deschutes county line. The department would consist of a paid fire chief, according to Warren, and enough trained volunteer firefighters to comply with Oregon law. Voters in November will also be asked to elect a fire district board of directors. Warren said they’re also planning how to gather the funds to build a firehouse. ““We have to start somewhere. Is it going to be perfect, obviously not,” Warren said. “We want to take as much input as possible and will be learning as we go.”
Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com
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From bendbulletin.com – published daily in Bend, Oregon, by Western Communications, Inc. Copyright 2005.