Several McCammon residents have told their City Council president, Aaron Hunsaker, that they’ve had to wait for more than half an hour for help to arrive amid an emergency.
Hunsaker explained McCammon has no locally stationed ambulance, and paramedics typically respond from Lava Hot Springs or Pocatello.
Hunsaker is hoping McCammon voters will back a bond on the Nov. 3 election ballot he believes would significantly shorten response times for firefighters and paramedics and make the community a much safer place to live. Voters will be asked to consider a $1.1 million bond that would help cover costs of building a new fire station.
Hunsaker said the current station — a metal and masonry shed — is much too small, and the department has had to turn down offers of newer fire trucks at very little cost because they were too large to fit inside of it. He said there’s also no room for an ambulance in the current facility.
“We’re one of the few communities in the south county that doesn’t have an ambulance, and I’m guessing that’s because we have no place to put one,” Hunsaker said.
Adding a fire station would also address other community needs. Hunsaker explained City Hall would move into the new station, and the current City Hall building, located in a historic train depot, would be converted into a community center during a second phase of the project.
He estimated the cost of the fire station would be between $1.6 million and $1.8 million. Following the election, the city intends to apply for a $500,000 grant through the Community Development Block Grant program, administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Furthermore, he said current interest rates are less than 2 percent and McCammon would be eligible for a special program through USDA. USDA would buy the city’s bond and forgive up to 15 percent of it, he said.
The new station would be located on an acre and a half of city-owned land near McCammon’s north entrance. The city would likely sell the current fire station, Hunsaker said.
Passage of the bond would raise taxes for the owner of a home valued at $100,000 to $150,000 by $3 to $5 per month, counting the homeowners exemption and provided that the city obtains the CDBG funding and is accepted into the USDA program, Hunsaker said.
“I think our odds are very good for the grant. If we can pass the bond, that shows the community is behind it,” Hunsaker said.
The city has sent a pamphlet about the plans to residents in utility bills, and Hunsaker and other officials have been going door to door explaining the details to residents.
“I haven’t had anybody necessarily opposed to it,” Hunsaker said.
If all goes as planned, construction could commence next summer and would take six to 10 months to complete.
Hunsaker said the need for a new ambulance, more modern firefighting equipment, a new fire station and a community center were all identified in a citywide assessment conducted two years ago, with funding from Idaho Rural Partnership.
Hunsaker said the city’s newest fire engine was made in the 1980s. Having a fire station would enable the department to accept newer, larger equipment made available to rural departments through programs at a minimal expense. Furthermore, he said the department has lost some volunteer firefighters recently, and a new station should aid with recruitment.
The Southeastern Idaho Council of Governments has helped to guide the city through the process of planning the fire station. SICOG encouraged the city to conduct an income survey during the summer, which confirmed McCammon is eligible for the CDBG funds.
The bond requires a supermajority to pass.
“The need is going to increase each year,” Hunsaker said.