The Hillsboro Fire Protection District will place a 50-cent tax levy increase on the April 7 ballot, mainly to cover the cost of adding firefighters but also to help fund construction of a new fire station to replace House 1.
That house would be built on a 1.8-acre piece of property along Business 21 that the Hillsboro R-3 School District plans to sell to the fire district.
The property is part of the 45 acres the school district bought for $990,000 from Comtrea in the fall. The small parcel sits between Bridle Ridge Driveway and the First Baptist Church of Hillsboro and is across the street from Hillsboro Fire’s Station No. 1 at 120 Fifth St
Comtrea called the property Bridle Ridge, although it is still commonly known as “Hall Farm.”
R-3 Superintendent Jon Isaacson said school district and fire district officials have reached a tentative agreement for R-3 to sell the property to the fire district for $76,500.
Since the sale is between two public entities, the district is not required to place the property up for bid, Isaacson said.
He said there are still procedures the district must follow before the property can be sold, among them declaring the parcel as surplus property, which the Board of Education has done, voting unanimously Dec. 19 to make that declaration.
Isaacson said the school board plans to vote on selling the property at its Jan. 23 meeting.
He said Fire Chief Brian Gaudet raised the idea of buying property from the school district for a new fire house.
“When I visited with Chief Gaudet on occupancy, he explained the need for more space for his fire station,” Isaacson said. “He asked about exploring that. We said we would explore it. We looked around the property for a suitable site.”
The small portion of the farm seemed appropriate because of its proximity to Business 21, Isaacson said.
“Also, we wouldn’t build a school building (between Bridle Ridge Driveway and the church) because we would need a bigger space for a school,” he said. “That location is a perfect location for a fire station in town. It’s right there at (Business 21).”
Isaacson said the district had no plans for using the portion of the property up for sale.
“We’ll be able to maintain the aesthetics of the farm because that location is on the southern edge of the property (not necessarily linked to the farm),” he said. “From a district standpoint, having a fire station next to our campus allows opportunities for our students. They won’t even have to leave the campus to visit a fire station. It will also allow them opportunities to become junior firefighters and will allow them to do community service projects with the fire department.”
In addition, a fire station next to the school district will enhance emergency response time to school district buildings, Isaacson said.
Fire district needs more space at Station No. 1
Gaudet said Station 1 needs to be replaced because it was built decades ago and does not offer enough room for the district’s present-day needs.
“It’s been part of our long-range planning process to attempt to build a new fire station,” Gaudet said. “The building is incredibly small. The current facility was built in the 1970s. We have very limited space to store trucks. We have limited office space. We have limited meeting room space.”
He said the district does not yet have a funding source to build a new house, but he hopes district voters will approve the 50-cent tax levy so it can proceed with the project. He said the tax measure would require a simple majority for passage.
The district’s current tax rate is $0.5217 per $100 assessed valuation.
“We currently have the lowest tax rate in Jefferson County and St. Louis County for a fire district,” Gaudet said.
He said the district currently has nine full-time firefighters, and adding more to the roster is the main reason for the proposed tax increase.
“We need to add full-time firefighters, with some money put aside for a new firehouse,” Gaudet said. “We’ve had a major increase in calls over the years with the growth of Hillsboro, obviously. In 2005, we ran about 580 calls for the year. This year, we’ll run about 1,000.
“If it passes, we would add five to six full-time firefighters, depending on the budget.”
Whether the tax levy passes or not, the district will keep the property it plans to buy from the school district, Gaudet said.
“It the tax increase does not pass, we will continue to provide the great level of services we provide,” he said. “We would keep the land for the future.”
The Hillsboro Fire board of directors voted unanimously in November to place the tax increase on the ballot.
Gaudet said the last time the district voters approved a tax increase was in 2002, when a 25-cent increase was approved.
Hillsboro Fire has two houses. The other is at 5750 Hwy. B.