Fire bond PAC plans to raise $25,000 in support of new fire station

A PAC has been formed to support a bond to replace the Pendleton Fire Department station.

The Pendleton Fire Department hasn’t been shy about the primary fire station’s shortfalls, and its supporters are willing to raise $25,000 to fix them.

Whether its been through discussions at public meetings or tours of the fire department’s 911 S.W. Court Ave. station, staff has highlighted the station’s awkward location that leads to slower response times, aging facilities rife with carcinogens and deferred maintenance and a building without the space and proper accommodations for female firefighters and new volunteers.

While emergency services staff have been vocal about the need for a new fire station, they’ll have to convince the public to support something it hasn’t done in more than 20 years — pass a city bond.

The city is currently proposing a $9.93 million bond to build a new fire station on Southeast Court at the old St. Anthony property, in addition to purchasing new emergency equipment, for the May ballot.

Entrusted with leading the campaign is firefighter/paramedic Jeff Perry, who is the listed director for the fire bond’s political action committee Pendleton Public Safety PAC.

Perry said he has been passionate about securing a new fire station for the city and was approached by some of his co-workers about running the PAC.

In addition to creating a website and a Facebook page, early campaign efforts include a series of presentations from Mayor John Turner and fire chief Mike Ciraulo to community groups and city committees.

The presentation includes a city tax rate comparison between Pendleton and Hermiston.

Because of retiring bonds, the fire bond’s 62 cents per $1,000 in assessed value would result in a net increase of 15 cents and a total city property tax rate of $6.73.

In comparison, Hermiston utilizes a fire district rather than operate its own municipal fire department.

The combined tax rates for the city of Hermiston and Umatilla County Fire District 1 is $7.84.

Perry said the PAC will ramp up its campaign with a kick-off event in February.

From there, the PAC will start to engage in the hallmarks of most local bond campaigns: volunteer coordination, door-to-door campaigns, yard signs and reader board messages.

Perry said the PAC will focus its message not only on the condition of the current fire station, but also share the importance of providing new equipment for a department with an ambulance service area covering 2,000 square miles and 20,000 people.

The bond includes money for an ambulance, heart monitors and the “Jaws of Life” extraction equipment.

Mounting successful bond campaigns typically requires raising significant amounts of money.

The last successful tax measure campaign — the 2009 gas tax to extend Airport Road — raised $13,816 through its PAC.

The Pendleton Public Safety PAC has set its sights even higher, its members looking to bring in $25,000 in contributions to support the campaign.

So far, the fundraising has gotten off to an auspicious start.

On Dec. 14, Ciraulo, his wife Gilda and Turner all donated $500 followed by a $1,000 contribution from the Round-Up City Development Corp. on Jan. 7.

The campaign has until May 16 to convince voters that a new fire station is worthy of their tax money.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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