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Verdigris Fire District seeks $13.5 million bond for capital improvements to meet area growth

A 2000 model fire truck without water capability sits in the Verdigris Fire District station. Chief Mike Schaffer says Verdigris trucks have to be custom built to fit inside the station due to the size of the garage doors, something he'd like to change with the bond issue.
Elizabeth Caldwell
/
KWGS News
A 2000 model fire truck without water capability sits in the Verdigris Fire District station. Chief Mike Schaffer says Verdigris trucks have to be custom built to fit inside the station due to the size of the garage doors, something he'd like to change with the bond issue.

The fire station in Verdigris is looking to upgrade.

A $13.5 million dollar bond will be put before votersin the 36-mile fire district on Oct. 10.

Chief Mike Schaffer says the money is needed because the population of the Rogers County community is expected to see an increase as development in the area continues.

“There’s a thousand more taps, which represents a thousand more structures, coming to Verdigris within the next three years. That’s no doubt, that’s not a lofty projection. That’s how many are right now expected to be built,” said Schaffer.

According to U.S. Census Data, the population of the town of Verdigris which represents a portion of the fire district’s responsibility rose 8.3% between April 2020 and July 2022. The population of Rogers County rose 3.8% during the same timeframe.

The bond money would be used for new fire trucks, equipment storage, an additional fire station, and a training ground. Schaffer says local training is important for consistency.

“We take on the extra burden of having to pay logistically for people going outside of the district just to practice basic skills. If you compared that to a school, it would be like, ‘Okay we’re gonna have a football team, but every single day at 2:15, everybody has to get on the bus and go to an adjacent school in order to practice your skills,’” said Schaffer.

The bond would be financed through a special assessment based on property values. Schaffer says for about every $100,000 in property value, $20 to $120 annually would be paid by property owners in the district to finance the bond. Though mandated language on the ballot cites an interest rate as high as 16%, Schaffer says the district is shopping for a cheaper rate.

Schaffer says there’s been confusion in the past about how the fire department is funded. The Verdigris Fire District relies solely on special assessments for both its operational budget and any capital improvements it may need.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.