By Sarah Hale, SVI Media
The Town of Thayne, the Town of Star Valley Ranch and the Thayne Volunteer Fire Department continue with efforts to create a Mid Valley fire district. Lincoln County is also backing the effort to gather signatures of support.
“Really the biggest thing that got this going is our funding,” Thayne Fire Chief Toby Merritt said.
According to Merritt, right now the Thayne Volunteer Fire Department is funded by the Town of Thayne, the Town of Star Valley Ranch and Lincoln County. The funding is used to maintain and update equipment and keep the volunteer fire department up and running.
“A municipal town is required to have fire protection,” Merritt said. “It is not required in the county. So when the county’s budget gets cut, that trickles down — which can trickle down to us.”
That loss in funding means a volunteer fire department struggles to meet training needs and equipment needs.
The funding question is a multi-faceted problem. Funding is being cut as the number of homes and structures in the coverage area increases. That equation means that more firemen and equipment are needed with less and less resources.
“We have prided ourselves that basically for the whole life of the fire department that we haven’t had to go to a district,” said Merritt. “It has come to the point now that we have to do something to secure funding.”
According to Merritt, the Thayne Volunteer Fire Department has an operating budget of approximately $80,000 a year, including community donations.
“To you and I $80,000 is a lot of money,” he said. “To put that into perspective, it costs about $20,000 to equip one fireman. We’re doing pretty good with recruiting and firemen. We get one or two a year. You can figure $20,000 for each one by the time you do bunker gear, radios, pagers, workman’s comp and all that kind of stuff. It doesn’t take long for that $80,000 to disappear.”
According to Merritt, a basic fire truck with no equipment costs just under $300,000.
The proposed Mid Valley Fire District would encompass Star Valley from the narrows just north of Thayne to Etna.
“We’ve always served that area,” said Merritt. “So our service area is not going to change.”
In order for the fire district proposal to move forward to a voting ballot, signatures of 25 percent of the landowners and 25 percent of the population in the proposed fire district must be gathered.
Petitions are available at the Thayne Town Hall and Star Valley Ranch Town Hall. Firemen and community volunteers are also working to gather signatures.
The petition deadline is November 1, 2019. If the necessary signatures are gathered prior to the deadline, then the question of a fire district will be posed through a ballot.