Saturday, August 9, 2014

City Council Considers Another Fire Safety Bond

Posted By on Sat, Aug 9, 2014 at 11:18 AM

At the grand opening of Comba Park on Aug. 8, Mayor Dave Bieter stood before Boisians, welcoming them to the new park in West Boise. But before he cut the ribbon, he used the podium to plug a new fire safety bond. 

"If we can pass this bond in November, it will allow us to open more parks like this one," Bieter said. "And it won't cost you a cent."

The bond doesn't specifically address the opening of more parks in the city, but it would free up money currently used for public safety, and Bieter said open space would be a top priority.

The Boise City Council will be considering whether to put that bond on the November election ballot at their 6 p.m. meeting on Aug. 12. The bond would build a new firefighter training facility that meets the National Fire Protection Association's minimum standards, and upgrade or replace four aging fire stations.

This might sound familiar: A similar bond on the ballot last year ("Yes! Yes! for Boise") passed with 64 percent of the vote—just barely below the two-thirds majority needed to pass a city bond—much to the disappointment of Mayor Bieter. 

So this time, a major tweak to the bond might make it more successful: the financing. This proposal will cost taxpayers no additional money because the city will pay the debt service for the bond using savings from its budget. 

The savings is coming from $2 million to $3 million per year in firefighter retirement benefits that the city no longer has to pay because the pension fund for former firefighters is now fully funded and self-supporting, according to a news release from the city. 

The bond term is also shorter this time around—cut in half. Having a 10-year term instead of 20 years gives a more favorable interest rate of 2 percent, reducing interest costs $4.4 million compared to last year's option. 

The city stated that the bond will let these projects be built by 2017, at least six years earlier than if the city had to save up the money and build the facilities as funds presented themselves.

Improvements from the bond would include bringing all stations up to current seismic and building codes, as well as meeting gender equality standards that allow both men and women to serve as firefighters, and house a ladder truck in West Boise.

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