Central Valley fire hall 1

Belgrade residents have a choice to either pay the same price of roughly $567,000 for fire-ambulance service or form a $3.3 million city-owned fire department.

All voters need to do is decide whether or not to annex into the Central Valley Fire District. City officials hope the question will be obvious.

“This is a good business decision,” Mayor Russ Nelson has said regarding the annexation. “It saves tax payers a whole lot of money and doesn’t change the level of service or cost.”

City and fire officials successfully changed a state law requiring municipalities to staff its own fire department when a specific population number was reached. The law now allows cities to annex into a fire district rather than forming its own department, which in Belgrade’s case would cost about $3.3 million per year.

The city currently pays Central Valley for fire and emergency service through an interlocal agreement. Officials have said little would change much under annexation except eliminating the city as middleman and allowing residents a vote in Central Valley trustee elections. Under the current agreement city residents do not have a say in the inner workings of the district.

But annexation into the Central Valley Fire District requires a vote from city residents. Ballots went out last week and are due March 3.

Officials said the cost will come from the same pot and will be about the same as now, but residents will directly pay the district through property taxes rather than the city paying the district through the same property taxes.

Still curious? E-mail the city manager, tbarkley@cityofbelgrade.net, or the fire chief, rlindroth@centralvalleyfire.com.