Local News

Sep 17, 2010 8:38 PM by Ariel Wesler

City fire pushing for Measure S

Most of the talk surrounding Measure S has focused on the need for a new county jail in Santa Maria to reduce overcrowding, but that's only half the measure.

Money generated from the 1/2 cent sales tax would also go toward public safety. Santa Maria would receive about $1.8 million for the city's police and fire departments.

The Santa Maria Fire Department responded to more than 9000 emergency calls last year, nearly double ten years ago. About 3700 were handled by fire station three on the northside of town. The average fire station nationwide handles about 1,000.

"By opening a 5th fire station, we'd be able to better divide that call volume," said Santa Maria Fire Chief Jeff Jones.

Money from Measure S would help operate and staff that fifth fire station near Donovan Road and Suey Crossing on the northeast side of town. Crews from fire station three will eventually move to a new building near Preisker Park.

"We have the funding to construct two new fire stations. Unfortunately, I only have the money available now to staff one

Opponents to Measure S aren't against improving public safety. They just blame Santa Barbara County leaders for not taking action when they had the money.

"We didn't ask them to do this in times of bust only, we asked them in times of boom and they wouldn't do it," said Andy Caldwell, who opposes the measure.

He says county supervisors need to come up with a longterm economic plan before expecting taxpayers to bail them out of a fiscal fiasco.

"They have no plan. They have no money. That is not our specific problem. It's their problem of failed leadership," Caldwell said.

But from a public safety standpoint, not being able to staff essential emergency services would eventually affect us all.

Measure S supporters point to the one percent state sales tax set to expire in June, before this half cent tax would even take effect, but opponents say not so fast. With California $20 billion dollars in the hole, there's no assurance lawmakers will actually let that tax expire.

If passed, the county says the half cent tax would be temporary and expire in 2025.


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