“Smithville Area Fire Protection District is committed to saving lives, protecting property and preserving the environment”
Dear Patrons of the Smithville Area Fire Protection District:
We, the Board of Directors of the Smithville Area Fire Protection District (SAFPD) would like to bring to your attention current issues impacting our District’s ability to provide emergency services and ask you to become fully informed before the August 2013 election. The following issues have a major effect on your Fire District’s service capabilities: Increasing Numbers of Emergency Calls, Increasing Back to Back Calls, Increasing Home Owner’s Insurance Costs and Increasing Risk to Citizens and Firefighters.
Increasing Numbers of Emergency Calls:
Over the last five years, the numbers of calls to the Fire District for emergency services have greatly increased. The following are the total calls for service we ran by year for the last five years, 2008 - 721, 2009 - 821, 2010 - 852, 2011 - 1028 and 2012 - 1166. In just five years emergency calls have increased over 38%. Additionally, the population of Smithville has more than doubled in the last ten years (www.city-data.com). The School District reports that the student population continues to grow, up 100 in 2012 alone (Dr. Todd Schuetz, September meeting of the Smithville Chamber of Commerce). The number of building permits issued in Smithville rose in 2012 and continues to rise in 2013. As our community has grown so has the demand for emergency services.
The Fire District covers 112 square miles from one station located in the southwest corner of the district. In this station we staff one fire truck we three firefighters. When the fire truck leaves on an emergency call it is committed to that call. This leaves the rest of the Fire District without coverage until that truck can return to service. Example, if we respond to an emergency call at Camp Branch and another call comes in for an emergency downtown Smithville we are out of service and with no available resources to respond to the call downtown. Even though the downtown area is less than 5 miles from the fire station a response will be delayed due to minimal Fire District resources being available. The increased volume of calls has greatly challenged our ability to provide the quality and timely service you and our entire community expects and deserves. We simply do not have the resources to meet the demand that will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. It is important to note that Smithville’s population has increased 52.8% in the last decade (www.city-data.com) but no Fire District resources have been added to keep up with the service demand.
Increasing Back to Back Emergency Calls:
In 2012 there were 110 back to back calls for service. While Firefighters are away on one call we cannot leave that location until we have mitigated the situation or we have been released by a higher authority at the scene. Until one of these two happen we cannot respond to another call for service. This means that the citizens calling for help must wait for us to respond to their emergency; this happened 110 times last year. Also, due to this situation, we had 9 emergency calls in 2012 that we were not able to respond to. When you call 911 you want help right then, you don’t want to wait for an unknown period of time or not have anyone from your fire department respond to your needs.
Increasing Home Owner’s Insurance Costs:
Over the last two years we have received 5 to 10 calls a week from home owners in our community complaining about their home owners insurance going up. Our Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating is currently a 6/9. The only thing we can do to improve this rating is to add personnel and stations. By building a new station in the northeast area of our district we can help all home owners in the Fire District with some relief on their home owners insurance. The home owners in the north end of the Fire District can potentially save hundreds of dollars annually on insurance. This station will be located on Collins road in the Paradise area. All home owners within 5 miles of the station location will benefit significantly this includes the neighborhoods of Harbor Lake, Wildflower, Lake Meadows and Diamond Crest (the 5 mile rule is a major factor most insurance companies use to calculate home owners insurance). Adding a station in this northeast area will not only aid with insurance rates, it will also double Fire District resources, reduce our response times and allow us to have additional units to send on emergency calls for service when back to back emergency calls occur. This will benefit everyone in the Fire District!
Increasing Risk to Firefighters and Citizens:
With the current level of resources, the Fire District is able to respond with two or three firefighters to the scene of a fire; this is a high risk situation. The National Fire Protection Association (a national standard) recommends a minimum of six firefighters on the scene of a fire initially for the safety of the victims as well as the firefighters and the successful management of the many different functions that need to be completed to mitigate the situation. Having minimal staffing at the scene increases the safety risk for everyone involved. Expecting one firefighter to perform the functions that would normally be done by two or three firefighters can have serious negative results.
A New Station and the Resources Needed to Run It:
In November 2012, the Fire District received tax payer support to issue general obligation bonds to build a new fire station. Unfortunately, a tax levy increase of .30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation was not fully supported; which meant that the Fire District couldn’t build a new station because we would not have the operating funds to open and operate it. The proposed tax levy is estimated to cost a home owner with a home valued at $100,000 an additional $57 per year; a $200,000 home an additional $114 per year and a $250,000 home an additional $142.50 per year. We know that a tax increase has an impact on your budget; however, it is a small price to pay for improved response times and the overall safety of your family and the community. We are hopeful that with improved ISO ratings a potential decrease in your home owner’s insurance costs would help to offset the tax increase.
It has been brought to our attention that influences outside of our community have been trying to downplay the importance of this issue to our citizens. As the officials elected to look out for your best interest and oversee the Smithville Area Fire Protection District, it is our responsibility to inform you of the current limitations of our delivery of emergency services. The Fire District is charged with the responsibility of protecting every structure, road way, every piece of land, water, vehicle and most importantly every person to include you and your loved ones. We have always taken these responsibilities very seriously and will continue to do so. We are now asking for your support to enhance our resources and abilities to provide the quality service the community deserves. Please don’t listen to outside influences who don’t know the facts and who do not suffer from inadequate emergency services or who are not affected by public safety services in our community.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us or the Fire Chief, John Callahan at 816-532-4902 with any questions you may have. Please make an educated choice when you vote on August 6, 2013! Thank you!
Berry Parks, President,
Board of Directors
Greg Atkins, Secretary/Treasurer,
Board of Directors
Michael “Mickey” Summers, Member,
Board of Directors