Evergreen Fire District trustee objects to proposed fire levy

Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-04 18:59:13-04

EVREGREEN – An Evergreen Fire District Board trustee is voicing his opposition on a request put to voters in Evergreen for a permanent fire levy with a 3 percent annual increase.

He says it’s too generous in benefits to employees, but the other trustees disagree.

Now the community must decide can you put a price on experienced EMTs?

When a resolution passed to put a permanent fire levy with a 3 percent annual increase before Evergreen voters in January, Trustee Jack Fallon was the only vote against it.

"It was 4-1 on the resolution that was passed in January to put it to the voters, and I told them at the time I was opposed to it and I was going to campaign against it."

The board’s trustee says he is campaigning against the levy as a resident citing concerns about the generosity in benefits to employees.

"The Evergreen Community has the lowest per-capita income in Flathead County, and their wages that they’re asking for are at least 30-percent above that and they’re asking for a $1,000 a month employer contribution to health insurance for employees, and the budget is showing a 14.4 retirement contribution for each employee," said Fallon.

The district has 20 part-time employees and three salaried positions including the chief, marshal and an administration assistant. None of them currently receive benefits.

Fire Chief Craig Williams says the district has lost a lot of high-quality employees that they have trained.

"Seconds count. In any emergency seconds count, and we want to give everyone the best fighting chance possible when they call 9-1-1," Williams said.

While Fallon voices his opposition to the levy, board president John Foust wants to the community to ask themselves if they can put a price on well-trained EMT Staff.

"It’s easy to say this is too much money. But when you’re in that situation, when you’re talking life or death, really, retention is a huge part of EMS," said Foust. "To have someone come into your home that is trained and been in the situation many times or do you want someone coming in that this could be their first time?"

If the levy passes, taxes on a $100,000 home would increase by about $84 per year.

Mailed ballots are due back by April 10.