Best for the community
Last week a writer said they felt Okanogan County Fire District 6’s choice of levy was “not good.” His complaint insinuated the money from Proposition 6 would pay off the new station and then continue to dump large sums of money into Fire District 6 with no particular purpose. And he thinks the timing is bad because of the pandemic’s effect on the economy.
First, our elected Fire District commissioners gave very careful consideration regarding whether they should request a permanent levy or a bond covering a finite number of years. They even solicited comments from the public before making their complicated decision. Did you respond? I wonder if last week’s letter writer did? The primary reason they chose a levy was because all of the fire stations in the valley need upgrading; Winthrop just needs a new station the most, primarily because it no longer meets safety standards. The purpose of the levy is to fund the building of the new station and the many ongoing needs every station has. A new station and training facility that is partially funded by the Betti Foundation’s $1.8 million grant is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Fire District 6 loses that grant if the levy fails.
Second, the impact the coronavirus is having on the economy is obvious. But is there ever a good time? I’m a retiree and not wealthy by any means. And yes, the pandemic will greatly affect my 401K, just like everyone else’s. But sadly, our Fire District’s needs don’t go away because of a pandemic and shutdown of the economy. Fires still happen. Accidents still happen. Firefighter training still needs to continue.
Our volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line every single call they roll on. Don’t you think they deserve our support? Each and every one of us benefits when firefighters are well trained and properly equipped. Now is the time to think about what is in the best interest of our community. Think about that for a minute then ask yourself, can you really afford to vote against this levy?
Please – vote yes on Proposition 6.
Patti Nordby, Winthrop
Right levy, right time
In his April 1 letter, Ross Darling made a case against Proposition 6, the proposed Fire District 6 levy increase that voters will vote on this month. But, the case he made is a very poor one.
His main objection to the levy increase is that it doesn’t end when the new fire station is paid off. But, a permanent levy increase is exactly the right choice because the need for increased funding is on-going. It isn’t going to end when the new station is paid off in 20 years. The district needs a permanent increase in funding both to improve the safety of the firefighters and to increase its capacity to fight fires and provide other emergency services.
The population, the number of structures, and the risk of fire in the district have all increased and are likely to continue increasing. Like many other eastern Washington fire districts, Fire District 6 needs to ramp up to keep up. The last time the district had a voter-approved levy increase was 14 years ago. The additional revenues were used to increase the number of paid firefighters from one to five and to replace emergency vehicles that needed to be replaced. Now the district needs a new station in Winthrop and improvements at all the other stations, more equipment, and more firefighters. This will improve response times, increase fire-power, and do a much better job of protecting our firefighters from toxins, pathogens, and accidents.
His other objection is about the timing of the levy. He claims that any levy increase should be later, after the coronavirus related economic downturn is over. But, if Proposition 6 is approved, the modest property tax increase won’t start until 2021, which should be long after the current shut-downs are over. And, our increased fire risk isn’t going to be on pause during economic fluctuations. We absolutely don’t need the sort of mega-fire displacement Paradise, California, had while we need to shelter in place during a pandemic. Lastly, interest rates are at a historic low, and now is a great time to finance just about anything.
Paul Sisson, Winthrop
I appreciate that in all its understandable focus on the COVID-19 virus, Congress did not lose sight of the need to improve care and support for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
I am grateful that Congressman Dan Newhouse responded to Alzheimer’s Association advocates who urged his support of a bill to let area agencies on aging give services to those with younger-onset Alzheimer’s and that he worked successfully to pass it into law.
Approximately 5% of the more than 5 million Americans living today with Alzheimer’s have younger-onset. Until now, these folks have been ineligible to receive vital Older Americans Act help like nutritional programs, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention, and caregiver support.
This issue is important to me because I lost my father to Alzheimer’s in 2016 and I know the heavy burden that all families carry when dealing with a loved one with this disease.
All our members of Congress should continue to actively support policies that address Alzheimer’s disease as the national public health crisis it is.
Valerie Halvorson, Omak
I don’t know if we should vote for or against the upcoming Okanogan County Fire District 6 levy. But, I know one thing, before we vote; there are a couple of questions which should be answered:
• Why is this proposal a “levy lift,” and not a general obligation bond? A general obligation bond would last until the new construction loan has been repaid and then stops. This levy lift has no termination date and after the new building is paid for approximately $216,000 will still be collected in addition to the existing $800,000 annual budget.
• This proposed “training” facility will have a problem with wastewater generated from practice house and car burns. What is the process to protect Winthrop’s drinking water which is downhill from the proposed building/training site?
• This will be the third time FD6 has proposed a construction levy. There is a lesson here. Either the proposed building site is wrong, the building too lavish, too much money was asked for, or not enough public input was asked for and received.
I have great respect and admiration for the community members who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way. My critique is directed towards the commissioners, who need to do a better job of educating the public, and taking the public’s opinion when asking for more money.
Ron Perrow, Winthrop
Step up for firefighters
It is unfortunate that our fire district has to run its levy at a time when we are concerned about our health and our economy. It is also unfortunate that we will need to face another potentially hellacious fire season. The fires won’t hold off just because we’re weary from all the worry that came before.
And, as for me, when the fires do come, I want the best equipped, best trained, most committed volunteers and staff responding to each and every crisis – for their safety and mine. If these firemen and women are going to put themselves on the line for my family, for my house, for my neighbors’ families and houses, then I need them to know that we have done everything we could to support them and their state and federal colleagues.
That’s why I am going to vote yes on the fire district’s levy. We need this new station and the support it will provide for our firefighters. We also need them to have a stable budget, one they can depend upon year after year so that they can plan for and afford equipment upgrades, additional training and new technologies, without having to come back to the voter’s hat in hand every two, three, or four years for another levy request.
It’s a lot of money, and we’re placing a lot of trust in our commissioners and the leadership of our volunteers (and, fortunately, they are accountable to us). But to refuse to support them at this time would be like pulling the rug out from underneath them while we are fast approaching the season when we will need them the most.
They’ve done their due diligence. They’ve scaled back the station’s design, they’ve canvassed the valley and found a most reasonable and workable location. They’ve even managed to grab another million from outside this community for some training. And, in spite of what others may say, even with this new levy, compared to other districts, we are getting a good deal – I am, you are, the entire district is.
I think it’s time for all of us to step up and support our firefighters. Nothing we can think of doing will get any cheaper. So let’s get it done.
David Asia, Twisp
Pick up some twine
Spring is here and our beautiful fish-eating hawks known as ospreys are arriving back in the Methow after a long flight north from their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central, and South America. Ospreys come here to breed and build nests with sticks, moss, vines, and unfortunately discarded baling twine.
For unknown reasons, ospreys are attracted to colored and frayed twine and it can often be seen dangling from their nests when hay operations are nearby. It is all too often a fatal attraction. The hawks and their chicks become entangled in the twine and suffer tragic deaths by strangulation or starve because they can’t fly off to fish. Outside of Winthrop, the Wolf Creek area has been lethal for the nesting ospreys as numerous pieces of discarded twine can be found lying by the hay fields.
This seems like a problem that shouldn’t be hard to solve. Perhaps ranchers can pick up the twine as it is dropped or in early spring after the snow melts concerned citizens like myself can be allowed to go pick up the twine before the ospreys come and find it. This spring, to go along with “stay at home and save human lives,” I propose we also “pick up twine and save osprey lives.”
Janet Bauer, Winthrop
Now is the time
Our message is simple. Please vote in support of the Okanogan County Fire District 6 levy. The past six weeks have been a challenging time in the valley, and we’ve been reminded of the critical importance of preparedness. Preparedness is exactly what our local fire district firefighters provide to all of us.
We also know it is a hard time for the many people who have not been able to work. Voting to support a levy increase will take courage and foresight in these difficult economic times, but fires don’t slow down when the economy does. Our volunteer firefighters have responded to fires in the past six weeks as we’ve been on the stay at home order. We need our firefighters and they need a better station and better training facility. Voting to support the levy also brings a grant for an additional $1.8 million to lend more support to this critical valley need. So, please – vote “yes” on the fire district levy.
Therese and Harry Grant, Lost River Road
Thanks for support
Thank you to the Methow Valley News for your informative article and opinion column regarding Proposition 6 and the need to build a new district fire station and training facility in Winthrop. And many thanks to our supporters for all the wonderful letters from the community saying, “Let’s Get This Done!” You all realize the importance of providing a safe and efficient place for our firefighters to work and train. You see how important it is to get that fantastic $1.8 million grant when Proposition 6 passes. The Betti Foundation grant will cover $650,000 of the building costs, and provide an endowment for ongoing costs of the training facility, as well as continuing funding for a vocational training program, all at no cost to the taxpayers.
Thank you for helping us help you!
Pat Leigh, volunteer