Cambridge-area taxpayers can now visit an assortment of websites and that address, from different perspectives, 5 upcoming April referendums to expand the fire and EMS station in Cambridge.
Fire Department site
The Cambridge Volunteer Fire Department has a tab on its website, www.cambridgevfd.com/, about the proposed $6.5 million station expansion and related referendums.
The site has links to contact fire and EMS officials, a letter to the editor recently printed in the Cambridge News & Deerfield Independent and per $100,000 taxpayer impact information for the five municipalities involved – the towns of Christiana, Lake Mills and Oakland and the villages of Cambridge and Rockdale.
The April 6 referendums will be binding in Christiana and advisory in the other four municipalities.
The fire department’s page also includes a letter to area residents, FAQs, yard sign information, videos and photos and a survey link.
The 10-question survey asks respondents to weigh in on their concerns about the project, on their vision for local fire and EMS service now and into the future and asks how local residents are getting their information about the project.
The survey’s introduction focuses on what fire and EMS officials say is a critical need to expand the station, which was built in the 1980s.
The proposed project would roughly triple the size of the current station on West Main Street in Cambridge, spreading it onto the adjacent site of a Pizza Pit restaurant and a small house.
“The station simply does not function safely for our first responders and staff, and is not effective for the communities we serve,” the survey’s introduction says.
Cambridge EMS website
The Cambridge Area EMS also has a dedicated site for the proposed station expansion. It is at http://cambridgeareaems.com/station-remodel-information/
The EMS site includes an architectural rendering of the proposed expanded building’s exterior; videos about the proposed project and station needs; and a lengthy, multi-point examination of why the updates are needed and answers to questions that have arisen during the planning process.
“The building, located on Main Street, was built in 1984, and is no longer able to safely continue serving as such a facility,” the EMS site says. “Our daily operational needs have outgrown our existing space. The transition from volunteer to paid EMS services and the increase in both the amount of equipment, personnel, and administrative functions for both the fire and EMS have caused or existing space to become cramped and dangerous for our emergency responders.”
Citizens group website
A citizens group that is questioning the proposed plan also now has a website.
“We know the station needs fire and EMS improvements to serve the volunteers and staff better. We all want fire and EMS to have what it needs to serve the community effectively, safely and efficiently,” says Citizens For a Responsible Cambridge Fire and EMS Station.
“But can we reexamine this plan, with the help and inclusion of community members,” the group says, asking more questions and exploring options other than expanding the station?
Citizens For a Responsible Cambridge Fire and EMS Station says it would like to further study the station needs, research how neighboring communities provide emergency services, develop priorities and consider collaborating with neighboring communities to share costs
Its site includes a link to a recent Jefferson County study on sharing services, a link to the referendum wording and a FAQs tab.
And the group addresses the tax impact on local businesses.
“Struggling area small businesses will experience the same property tax increases, in addition to losses in regular daily business due to the financial impact on their customers,” its site says. “Cambridge is not a wealthy community. Its downtown has had tough times for several years, even prior to the pandemic.”
Last week, the Cambridge Community Fire and EMS Commission released what it said are the final per $100,000 taxpayer impact figures.
In a letter to the Cambridge News & Deerfield Independent, Fire Chief Terry Johnson said that if approved, the $6.5 million project will increase property taxes in the village of Cambridge by $61 per $100,000 of assessed property value, for 20 years. For the owner of a $250,000 home in Cambridge, that would amount to a tax increase of about $152.
The letter said that if its April 6 referendum passes, the increase per $100,000 of assessed property value would be $60 in the town of Christiana, or $150 for the owner of a $250,000 home.
The increase would be $4 in the town of Lake Mills, or $10 for the owner of a $250,000 home; $66 in the village of Rockdale, or $165 for the owner of a $250,000 home; and $50 in the town of Oakland, or $125 for the owner of a $250,000 home. All of the impacts would be felt for 20 years.
Johnson said the new figures were computed by financial consultant Robert W. Baird & Co., for the Fire and EMS Commission, based on 2020 equalized values.
The village of Cambridge, meanwhile, has put out a slightly different figure on the impact on village property owners.
Deputy Village Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Barbara Goeckner said financial consultant Ehlers, Inc. has calculated that if Cambridge’s referendum passes, the tax increase for village property owners would be $58.75 per $100,000 of assessed value, or about $147 for the owner of a $250,000 home.
Second Cambridge question
The village of Cambridge also has a second related question on the April 6 ballot. It seeks to annually exceed the village’s state revenue cap by $95,000, in perpetuity, to fund fire and EMS costs and other village costs.
Goeckner said Ehlers, Inc., estimates that the impact of this question will be $58.77 per $100,000 of assessed property value, or about $147 for the owner of a $250,000 home.
Based on Ehlers’ calculation, if both referendum questions pass in Cambridge, the result will be a tax increase in the village of $117.52 per $100,000 of assessed value, or about $294 for the owner of a $250,000 home.
The expanded space is proposed to include eight dorm rooms with individual bathrooms, a series of new offices, a new apparatus bay and new training, workout and dayroom spaces. And it would be designed to accommodate the potential future addition of full-time EMTs and firefighters.
The EMS department currently has six full-time paramedics who stay, when on duty and not on a call, at an apartment across the street from the station. The fire department remains all-volunteer with no immediate plans to add full-time staff.