Voters in the Ozark Fire Protection District will consider a ballot request when they go to the polling places April 6.
Voters will consider a request for the fire district, which to issue $12.5 million in capital improvement bonds for buildings and apparatus.
The Ozark Chamber of Commerce officially endorsed "Proposition Fire," with a formal vote on March 4. Fire Chief Jarett Metheny made a presentation to members of the chamber, and the presentation was shared on the fire district's Facebook page by Facebook Live.
Metheny gave an overview of the fire district.
"We provide emergency services to between 35,000 to 40,000 people within 110 square miles. That includes Ozark, Fremont Hills and then unincorporated portions of Christian County. That includes over 17,000 structures, rooftops. Annually, we respond to about 3,500 calls for service," Metheny said.
The ballot request is part of a 10-year capital improvement plan that resulted from a strategic planning process in which the elected board of directors assessed fire protection needs throughout the Ozark Fire Protection District.
The Ozark Fire Protection District's operations are funded through a 63-cent property tax levy that generates about $3.5 million per year.
Metheny said the challenge that Ozark firefighters face each day is balancing risk and resources when it comes to answering emergency calls.
"Our risk has grown in this community. Population has exploded, building permits are exploding, and the last data the we ran last month was that 26 percent of the time, we have stacked calls, which means we have calls on top of each other, so if we have multiple incidents working, then it's going to obviously delay our response," Metheny said.
The goal of "Proposition Fire" is to improve the infrastructure for the fire department to better carry out its mission of providing emergency services.
Metheny said that the capital improvement bonds can allow for better allocation of resources, more training for firefighters, shorter response times in emergencies and in the long term, lower insurance premiums for property owners.
Projects included in the bond issue are:
- Renovation/relocation of Fire Station No. 1, located off of Third Street near Finley River Park.
- Construction of Ozark Fire Station No. 4
- Construction of a training facility
- Purchase of an aerial apparatus. Currently, in the event of a fire at a multistory building, the Ozark Fire Protection District would rely on mutual aid from another fire department that has an aerial truck, such as the Nixa Fire Protection District.
- Purchase of two pumping apparatus, which have the capacity to power water through large hose lines.
- Repayment of current lease obligations
The ballot measure also gained the endorsement of the firefighters union that serves Ozark.
“This funding will ensure that the citizens and visitors of Ozark are able to receive the level of emergency services that the community expects from us,” said Matt Gallina, Shop Steward for the IAFF Local 152, Ozark Firefighters.
With a staff of 34 and three fire stations, the Ozark Fire Protection District provides emergency medical services, rescue, extrication, and community risk reduction services to the citizens and visitors of the district. Its boundaries start at the Christian-Greene County line and span as far south as the southern ends of Logan Ridge Road and Cap Hill Ranch Road, which are just north of the Busiek State Forest.