Cemetery District No. 2, Fire District No. 4 ask for levy increases

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

There are two local levy measures on this November’s ballot. One is a levy of $0.29 per $1,000 assessed property value for Douglas County Cemetery District No. 2. The other is a levy lid lift of $0.97 per $1,000 assessed property value for Douglas County Fire District No. 4.

The cemetery district levy is a one-year levy that would collect $50,000 and would replace an expiring three-year levy of $0.25 per $1,000 assessed property value which collected $40,000 per year. The district manages the Waterville Cemetery, the Waterville Catholic Cemetery, the Lutheran Cemetery in Douglas, the Farmer Cemetery, Fletcher Cemetery and Badger Mountain View Cemetery.

Of the six cemeteries, only the Waterville Cemetery and the Waterville Catholic Cemetery are irrigated.

District Manager Cody Salazar said that the district board decided to run the one-year levy at the increased rate because the price of water in the town is going to be increasing, but it is not yet certain how much the increase will be. The district will have a better idea by next year and will be able to adjust the amount of the next levy accordingly. In the future the district is planning to run two-year levies.

Salazar said that cemetery personnel have been working to reduce water usage. They put in more efficient sprinkler heads, repaired some leaks in the irrigation lines, upgraded the electrical valves and cut back watering from four days to three days a week and from one hour per day to 50 minutes per day. The district has reduced water use by about 10 percent over the 2017 season.

They also continue to fertilize four times a year, to thatch and aerate and to mulch lawn clippings in order to conserve water. Salazar also said that some trees were donated to the cemetery and planted in the southeast section, which should provide additional shade in the future.

The cemetery district is planning to switch the Catholic Cemetery to an electronic valve before next season, which will save water compared to the manual valve currently in use.

The 2018 water bill for the cemetery was between $15,000 and $20,000, Salazar said. The town originally proposed an increase for bigger users that would result in a 333 percent increase in the cemetery’s water bill. After the cemetery district and school approached the town council concerning the large increase, the council decided to rescind this increase and take a year to reevaluate what the increased rates should be for the larger users.

In addition to paying the water bill, the cemetery levy dollars provide for salary for personnel, insurance, supplies, equipment maintenance and repair, and other utilities.

The current levy for Douglas County Fire District No. 4 collects $0.585 per $1,000 assessed value. The district wants to increase the base levy amount to $0.97 per $1,000 for this three-year levy. The total amount collected would increase from $318,119 to about $527,108 per year. When the levy expires, future levies would use the $0.97 as the new base rate and would increase from that based on the 1 percent allowed for inflation.

District Commissioner Pat Brandt said that the fire district currently is working on a number of projects that will require increased revenue in the coming years.

Brandt said that the primary project is the construction of a new fire station near Beebe Bridge. The district is in the process of purchasing a piece of land from the Chelan County PUD for this purpose. Brandt said that there has been quite a bit of development at the north end of the district near Beebe Bridge and on the McNeil Canyon Road in recent years. All of this development is over five miles distant from the nearest fire station, increasing insurance rates and causing danger to property in the event of fire. If everything goes well, planning for the station will begin in 2019.

Another project is the establishment of a summer residency program for fire academy students. The district has already ordered a two-bedroom mobile home to house students. The mobile home will be placed behind the main station in Orondo. The program will help to increase the number of firefighters available to respond to incidents and provide people that are based at the station and can respond immediately.

The district is also currently going out to bid on new extrication equipment. The district’s equipment is outdated and is not as effective as it needs to be.

In addition to these projects, the district is hoping to develop a fund that it can use to replace its vehicles. Brandt said that all of the district’s vehicles are currently about 20 years old and will need to gradually be replaced.

Ballots were mailed by Oct. 19 and are due by 8 p.m. Nov. 6.