AP NEWS

Smith Valley voters reject $450K fire levy

September 18, 2018

Smith Valley voters have rejected a mill-levy request that would have raised $450,000 annually for the Smith Valley Fire Department.

Results of the mail-in ballot were 586 in favor of authorizing the levy, and 848 against the levy.

The levy was intended to expand the rural department to six full-time staffers who would have been cross-trained as firefighter/paramedics or firefighter/EMTs.

Prior to the levy request, Smith Valley Fire Chief Amy Beick said the department wanted to be able to continue the service it has provided and build its staff in response to the population growth in the area. The department is manned year-round, 24 hours a day, but has seen a decrease in volunteer firefighters in recent years.

Currently, the department includes Beick, one firefighter/advanced EMT and one firefighter/EMT, plus 11 volunteer firefighters and five on-call volunteers who work shifts to make sure there is enough coverage.

“As the community has grown, our calls have increased, but our volunteers have not,” Beick said in an earlier interview with the Daily Inter Lake.

The need arose for more staff when a private ambulance company that covered Smith Valley and Kila chose to end its contract with the fire department two years ago, according to Beick. The fire department board elected to provide advanced life support transport and bought one ambulance.

Smith Valley Fire Department covers a 69 square-mile area west of Kalispell and has mutual-aid agreements with departments in Kalispell, West Valley, South Kalispell and Marion.

Smith Valley’s last bond request was about 10 years ago, and its approval allowed the department to build a new fire hall.

Beick was not available for comment on Monday.

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