North Fork community discusses proposed tax measure for more first responders

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If passed, Measure L will increase the sales tax in unincorporated areas of Madera County by one percent. (KFSN)

A community meeting was held in North Fork Monday about a new measure that, if passed, will put more first responders in Madera County.

Many people at the meeting said they were on board with the measure, but there were some who were uncertain how it would help with current problems in the county.

In North Fork, a proposed ballot titled Measure L raised a number of concerns during the community meeting. If passed, it will increase the sales tax in unincorporated areas of Madera County by one percent.

It's meant to enhance the county's public safety by bringing in extra deputies and firefighters. Fire Chief Nancy Koerperich said that five of her stations are currently staffed with just one person, making it challenging to respond to emergency calls like structure fires.

"How is that one firefighter going to place their engine where it needs to be placed, make sure there are no folks inside the structure that need to be rescued," she said. "So, you're asking one person to really do the job of four people."

Veteran Madera County firefighter Chris Topherson knows those challenges firsthand.

"It could take upwards of 30 to 45 minutes to get those four engines there and to do the two-in-two-out to be safe under state mandates," he explained. "And by that time, we can't save homes and it makes it almost impossible to save lives."

District 5 supervisor Tom Wheeler spearheaded the measure. He says it will raise the county's sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent, which would add a cent for every dollar spent.

"The average income in Madera County is about $38,000, so if you break that down they pay about $300 per year, per sales tax," he explained. "So, one percent of that will be about $3 a year extra out of a person's pocket."

While some residents are for it, others are still on the fence.

"What will the money be spent on?" one resident asked. "How is it going to be allocated? The more information I have, the more I'll consider."

And if taxpayers approve Measure L, at least fire station in North Fork, which is currently run by volunteers, would be operated by paid staff.

Also, if passed, 80 percent of the money collected over 20 years will go to the Madera County Fire Department, while the other 20 percent will go to the Madera County Sheriff's Office.

And Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney says he is okay with that because he knows the fire department needs it more.

Related Topics:
madera countypoliticstaxesfirefightersNorth Fork
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