Hoquiam voters will consider bond for ladder truck

Hoquiam voters in February will be asked to approve a $1.2 million bond issue to pay for a new fire ladder truck.

In a 9-1 vote, the Hoquiam City Council Monday night authorized the election on Feb. 12 for general obligation bonds to acquire a new 100-foot platform ladder truck for the Fire Department.

If approved by voters, the levy is for 20 years and would cost 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for Hoquiam property owners. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $19 a year, or $380 over the 20-year life of the bond.

The request from newly named Fire Chief Paul Dean and the council’s Public Safety Committee notes the city’s previous ladder truck, a 1979 model, broke down and was placed out of service in January 2011 and eventually sold as surplus.

That has left the city of Hoquiam relying on the availability and use of the Aberdeen Fire Department’s ladder truck for any large fires or rescue efforts over two stories high, but Dean noted the Aberdeen truck currently also is out of service.

A new truck is expected to last 30 years.

A similar bond proposal in May 2011 fell just short of the required 60 percent voter approval margin.

Councilwoman Jasmine Dickhoff cast the lone vote against the measure, saying she feared it was too early to go back to voters with another request for what is now a more expensive truck. She said she has heard from some citizens who are not willing to support it a second time.

“I have a concern having seen this fail,” she said. “In the future, voters remember that. I feel if this were to fail a second time, it would take this (bond option) out as an option completely.”

If it failed, Dickhoff said she felt the city might be stuck having to pay for a new ladder truck with other city funds.

Councilman Paul McMillan, chair of the Public Safety Committee, noted the final vote for the 2011 measure ended up with 59.85 percent approval, narrowly missing the 60 percent threshold.

“It’s something we need. We have a truck committee (that recommended this) unanimously, and we needed this truck over everything else for the Fire Department,” McMillan said. “This was the No. 1 priority.”

Dickhoff said her concern was only about the timing and not the need for the truck.

Councilman Bill Nelson, however, argued against any delay in putting the measure back before city voters. “For the safety of the firefighters, we can’t afford to wait,” he said. “And if you’re a home owner and we don’t have this truck, and the house next you burns, your house is going to burn. We can’t protect you with the way we are now. We can’t afford to wait.”

Estimates on the cost of the February election are about $14,000.

McMillan said the first meeting of a group being formed to support and promote the levy campaign will be at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Hoquiam Library.

“We have to sell it,” Nelson said.

“We’ll all be participating and we know how urgent this is,” Mayor Jack Durney added.