Next week, voters in and near the City of Oronogo will decide if they should increase property tax to pay for new, full-time firefighters.
Oronogo resident Kaylee Reynolds says it's time to fire-up more support for a group of public servants.
"Firefighters have a lot of things they go through, training-wise, and a lot of health issues when they go through fire fights," says Reynolds.
The Oronogo Fire Protection District was formed 27 years ago. Back then, 500 people lived in Oronogo. Now, the population is about 23-hundred.
"When we started the fire district, we were running in the neighborhood of 150 calls a year. Now we're up well over 350," says Oronogo Fire Protection Chief Charley Wilson.
That number takes into account the fire district also covering 22 square miles around the City of Oronogo. It can take seven minutes for volunteer firefighters to drive to Oronogo's fire station after a 911 call, then suit-up for that emergency. Oronogo's fire chief says a team of four, full-time firefighters would cut that response time to a minute, tops.
"There's going to be times when there will be more paid personnel than the others (volunteer firefighters will remain), and we'll do research and find out when those times are," says Wilson.
Insurance companies take note of how well-equipped a community is to fight fires efficiently and quickly; their rating scale is called an ISO rating. Oronogo and Joplin have the same ISO rating. Gary Price, an independent insurance agent, says that speaks well about Oronogo dedicated volunteer firefighters. But as Oronogo grows, Price says it's important to ensure emergency response times don't get longer with volunteer firefighters.
"What it's going to do for homeowners, is save them a lot of money on their homeowner's insurance premium," says Price.
Oronogo's fire chief says this tax proposal comes down to deciding to pay for safety now or later. Paying for it later, though, may include the "ultimate" price.
The tax would add 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. This tax issue will be decided a week from today, April 4th.
The Oronogo Fire Protection chief says the four paid full-time firefighters would keep busy during any down time by checking on fire hoses, hydrants, and equipment; such maintenance is required for a good ISO rating.
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