Fire and EMS Levy meeting sheds light on Prop. 1

By Anna Haefele

Special to the Weekly

Last Wednesday, Fire Chief Jim Ghiglione spoke to a small group of Lopez citizens in an effort to shed light on Proposition #1, a levy initiative set to appear on the Feb.12 ballot.

The initiative would fund a ten- year plan that accounts for inflation, broadens the department's volunteer resources, and arranges for the replacement of several crucial pieces of equipment, all while keeping the department's services free of charge for all residents.

“This plan is designed to fund the department from 2013 through 2022,” said Ghiglione.

To finance this, the Lopez Island Fire and EMS Department is asking for a property tax increase of 16 cents per thousand dollars of a home's assessed value. Should the initiative pass, the department won't be seeking additional funding from voters within the next decade. “We feel the additional 16 cents will fund what we need to do for the next ten years,” noted Ghiglione.

On the department's list of items that are critical to replace is an ambulance. “The ambulance we need to replace actually has visible cracks from the frame racking so hard,” the fire chief said, commenting on the wear vehicles experience on rough island driveways.

The department also wants to develop a fitness program and college-level programs to benefit their volunteers. “We're looking into continuing education for our volunteers, and we're looking at Running Start for our high school student volunteers,” said Ghiglione.

The department is also planning to hire a third paramedic, to meet the demands of growing population and an increased number of aid calls.

While tax revenue from the levy would fund a wide variety of improvements, it would also fund maintenance projects, many of which are critical to the functioning of the department.

Ghiglione was quick to assure the audience that revenue will be and has been well spent, stating “This is an expensive business, but we are conservative and we manage your money the best that we know how.”

He went on to point out that the department purchases used equipment as opposed to new, as well as keeping current equipment in use as long as possible, saying“Just because something is old doesn't mean we replace it...we are looking for ways to keep the vehicles we have in service.”

While unable to actively advocate for the initiative, Ghiglione did make clear that the proposition would take financial pressure off the department and allow for the continuation and development of necessary services, noting “This is what we need to help you.”

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