HURRICANE – After more than a month of discussion in various meetings, Hurricane is moving towards joining the Hurricane Valley Fire District again. Discussion on the issue, including a public forum, was the major focus of Thursday evening’s City Council meeting.
Before the public forum began, Hurricane City Fire Chief Tom Kuhlmann informed the City Council and those in attendance about the current state of the Hurricane City Fire Department, his major focus being on how best to maintain an adequate level of service.
Currently, the department is in a protection class of 5 on a scale in which a lower number indicates a better level of service. The Fire Department currently services an average of 5.8 calls per day, nearly double compared to 2006, he said, when it averaged three calls per day. Sixty-five percent of those calls are overlapping.
During the department’s last accreditation process, it was recommended that the city add three more stations to remain at the 5 protection class level, which, he said, affects residents’ homeowner’s insurance premiums. Upon the next review, Kuhlmann said, the department would also need three more ladder trucks, two more brush trucks and two more ambulances to maintain the same protection class. If the city does not join the district, it would need an approximately $2 million property tax levy to pay for these needed improvements, he said.
Kuhlmann said he wants to keep any tax increase reasonable.
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Councilman Darin Larson said the city must stay the course this time around. The current setup of the district mitigates taxes and the city needs to maintain good fire service “even if we pay an extra $30 on our taxes,” he said.
Not joining the district would decrease the level of service and would lead to an increase in home insurance premiums for residents, Kuhlmann said.
“If insurance goes up, I can live with that,” Councilwoman Ethelyn Humphries said. “If we stay the way we are now, it will cost more in the long run.”
Mayor John Bramall said there would be up to $500,000 in savings by joining the district, but did not give specifics. Three residents, Bob Carter, Deward Stout, a former Hurricane City emergency medical technician and firefighter, and Stephen Meyer, voiced their support for joining the fire district during the public forum.
Meyer said he wouldn’t be sitting in the meeting if it weren’t for the quick actions of the fire department’s EMTs last year.
Councilman Darin Thomas, who admitted his father was a fireman, voiced his support for joining the district, saying the level of service is slipping. He said right now probably only 1 in 5 Hurricane residents know for sure if the city has its own fire department or is part of a district, but what matters most is that there is “someone there.”
“We’re wasting lots of time and resources,” Thomas said.
No motion was made or approved concerning the fire district, but the council’s actions made it clear they are moving towards joining it.
Jackie Coombs, of Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (which provides wholesale power on a nonprofit basis as a cooperative that includes 45 municipalities, Hurricane among them, in eight states) made a presentation to the council about Hurricane’s power usage and the outlook for power availability in the future. According to Coombs’ report, Hurricane used less power last summer, the peak of power consumption, than it did in the summer of 2013 because this year’s summer was cooler. She said that the city has a balanced resource portfolio.
Coal power production is going by the wayside and will most likely be completely out of UAMPS’ portfolio by 2023, Coombs said.
Coal is being replaced with modular reactor power plants. A new such power plant being constructed in the Idaho Falls area will be online in 2023. Hurricane City Power Director Dave Imlay said that, due to coal regulations, a new agreement will be coming in April which will require Hurricane to start “spending money without seeing results until 2023” which will eventually lead to a rate increase.
Bramall said Hurricane would like to host the Veterans Day Parade next year and also provided names of potential members to serve on a new nine-member city tourism committee.
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