The Ozark Fire Protection District began serving the community of Ozark in 1905. The Ozark Rural Fire District provided emergency services to areas outside the community of Ozark. In 2004, the Ozark Fire Department and the Ozark Rural Fire District were merged into the Ozark Fire Protection District. In 2007, a tax levy was passed to increase funding from $0.30 to $.38 allowing for 6 firefighters per shift. In 2013, a tax levy increase was passed to increase funding to $0.64, which is our current levy.
Given the explosive growth in population and development, the current tax levy has not provided the necessary funds to provide critical capital improvements in stations and apparatus. To address these concerns and gaps, a strategic planning process was started in June of 2020 and completed in December of 2020. As part of the strategic plan, a 10-year capital plan was developed to address the current situation and prepare for future growth.
Fire Station #1 was built in 1983 and was expanded in 2006 to accommodate a crew of 4 firefighters, and administrative staff. The facility is located near the Finley River in a FEMA Flood Zone. During periods of heavy rain and flooding, the living quarters will flood from underground water. In 2015, water was over 18 inches in the station and required an extensive remodel and remediation. There is no solution other than to rebuild or relocate.
Fire Station #3 is currently unstaffed. Fire Station #3 was built in 1990 by the Ozark Rural Fire District as a volunteer fire station. In 2010, living quarters were built inside the apparatus bay for a volunteer live-in firefighter and was expanded in 2014 to accommodate two firefighters per day. Mold remediation was performed in 2010, 2014, 2017, and 2019. In 2021, it was determined that the structure is a sunken cost and unsafe for firefighters, and firefighters were re-assigned Station #1. Fire Station #3 was built as the previous Fire Station #2 located at 5401 N. 22nd, which was sold in 2017 and demolished in 2018 because of the same history with mold. A new Fire Station #2 was built at 6052 N. 25th Street and was opened in 2020. In addition to the firefighter health and safety concerns, expansion for adding firefighters or housing modern apparatus is not possible. It is not located in an area that provides adequate response times for the District.
In addition to solving the facility issues of Stations #1 and #3, this proposition would allow us to build a modern training facility. Firefighters are required to perform hands-on practical training and we currently do not have the facility or space to meet this requirement. We must travel to our neighboring agencies to train, which requires our resources to be away from our District causing a gap in service. It also prevents our crews from training together.
Fire Apparatus have a lifespan of 20 years and we currently have one pumper that was placed in-service in 2018, two pumpers that were built in 2011, and one that was built in 2000. In addition, we do not have an aerial apparatus requiring us to depend on the Nixa Fire Protection District, which causes a critical delay in response. Our proposed solution is to purchase an aerial truck, which cost approximately $1,500,000, to replace the 2000 model pumper. The proposition would also provide the funds to build two pumpers within the 10-year timeframe to replace both 2011 models.
When the previous Fire Station #2 was sold in 2017, a new Fire Station #2 was built and opened in 2020 for a cost of over $2,500,000. We currently have a lease principal of $1,500,000 with an annual payment of $200,000 ending in 2029, which are paid from operating funds generated from our general tax levy. The Proposition would allow us to refund the outstanding lease obligations and use operating funds to hire additional firefighters to address our critical staffing levels.
Proposition Fire provides the funding to build Station #1, Station #3, Training Facility, Aerial Apparatus, Two Pumping Apparatuses, and refund existing lease obligations. In conjunction with each other, these projects provide the improves the critical infrastructure to improve firefighter health and safety, enhance firefighter training, decrease response times, and reduce insurance premiums.