Central Pierce voters should OK badly needed bond

The News TribuneSeptember 30, 2013 

Central Pierce firefighters work to extinguish a house fire in March.

COURTESY OF CENTRAL PIERCE FIRE & RESCUE

Ronald Reagan was in his first term in 1984, the last time many voters in the area now served by Central Pierce Fire & Rescue approved a bond measure for the district. Twenty-four years later, district voters rejected a $36 million proposal that would have replaced or remodeled several aging stations.

Sadly, those stations haven’t miraculously healed themselves in the past five years; the problems have just gotten five years worse. But voters have another chance Nov. 5 to solve the fire district’s infrastructure problems – at almost the same annual cost to property owners as the unsuccessful 2008 bond measure.

They shouldn’t pass up the chance again. Now is the perfect time to issue bonds that would fund $39.8 million in improvements. Interest rates and construction costs will only increase as the economy improves, decreasing the district’s purchase power if it doesn’t act soon.

At a cost of about 16 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, this 20-year measure would cost the owner of a $225,000 home an estimated $36 a year. If the bond fails, the only way to make emergency repairs would be to take money from the district’s operating budget, which could hurt service. Because of falling property values during the recession, the district – the largest in Pierce County geographically – has lost more than $5.4 million in revenue since 2010.

If the measure passes, the district plans to replace the Parkland, Midland and downtown Puyallup stations. Built in the 1950s and ’60s, these stations lack seismic reinforcement and could collapse in the event of a big earthquake – exactly when fire and rescue service would be most needed.

Funds would also make major updates to the Spanaway headquarters and South Hill stations, and the other seven stations would get improvements ranging from new roofs and mold removal to better security and sewer connections needed because of failing septic systems. And the district would update its training center to enable firefighters to comply with new standards taking effect in 2014.

Central Pierce has no debt and isn’t paying off any bonds. It’s been a responsible steward of taxpayer money, and it’s past time that voters invested in their fire district’s infrastructure.

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