Ephrata firetruck

EPHRATA – Ephrata voters are asked to approve a property tax increase to buy fire department equipment.

The city council unanimously approved putting a 15 cent per $1,000 assessed value property tax levy on November’s ballot.

The property tax increase is expected to repay the $820,000 in bonds the city would sell if the levy is approved.

The money is purchasing a fire engine, an ambulance and air packs.

No one spoke at the public hearing for the ordinance, and the councilmembers did not voice any opinions before the vote.

The property tax levy is the second of four tax increases suggested by a group of community members in 2013.

Voters approved the first increase in 2014. The 0.1 percent sales tax increase paid to hire two police officers, so the city could add a captain and join the Inter-agency Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Ephrata Fire Chief Jeremy Burns said spending about $450,000 on an engine allows the city to better schedule its fire equipment purchases in the future.

The department normally keeps fire engines for about 30 years, he said. The department has a fire engine scheduled to be replaced in 2024 and a ladder truck scheduled to be replaced in 2032. The new fire engine helps the department to purchase a new truck every 10 years.

Burns said the 20-year-old ambulance has cracks in its patient compartment, and is used on a daily basis to respond to medical emergencies along with American Medical Response (AMR), the company the city contracts with to provide ambulance service. The new ambulance will cost $165,000.

The bond allows the fire department to purchase new air packs and breathing apparatus to protect firefighters responding to fires, Crago said. Purchasing the new equipment is expected to help the city to avoid a change in its rating with the Washington Survey and Ratings Bureau.

The bureau provides insurance companies with an assessment of how well the city is prepared to fight fires. Insurance companies can use the rate to determine how much property owners pay for insurance.

City officials estimated the average homeowner may pay $80 to $100 more a year for insurance if the city lost its present rating.