[LFC Comments: The Affordable Concord Taxes group sent this article to us for publication. Although we concur with ACT on this issue, we will write a separate article expressing our views on the fire levy.]
As many of you know and perhaps even participated in, Concord’s Trustees held the second of two stakeholder input sessions to listen to residents’ questions, concerns and even new ideas related to the capital project to construct two new fire stations for the long-term emergency response needs of our community.
There was, in fact, much good information and different points of view shared, and all participants were told upfront the input would inform the redesign of Station No. 1 on Rt. 608, as well as the satellite Station No. 2 on Prouty Rd. This was necessary after the Township’s original design and funding proposals were soundly defeated at the polls last November.
As members of Affordable Concord Taxes (ACT) but more important, long-time and engaged residents of this community, we fully support our firefighters and EMS professionals. But like many of you, we expect the ultimate plans to be appropriate to Concord’s needs, both in terms of size and cost, and with funding methods that don’t raise our taxes.
Again, while the two meetings were informative and relatively engaging, we were surprised that at their regularly scheduled meeting the very next evening, the Trustees approved the first step in putting an $8 million tax levy on the November ballot to pay for the construction costs of just Station No. 1. And yet, they told participants at the conclusion of the prior night’s stakeholder meeting that the plans presented for Station No. 1 were “conceptual” and still needed to be developed, including further exploring all available funding options.
The Trustees’ deadline for placing the bond issue on the ballot for November is August 5. We will share additional information once we see the specific language in the filing, but there are two main points that need to be emphasized:
1. We at ACT, and many of the residents we talk with, as well as various experts who have been advising us, believe that the better approach would be to focus on building Station No. 2. The Trustees have stated this portion of the overall plan can be paid for with existing funds and therefore would not raise taxes. Additionally, last year the Prouty Road station responded to approximately 46% of Concord’s total emergency calls, and both our firefighters and taxpayers are fortunate that this desperately needed structure can be replaced without delay.
2. In terms of Station No. 1, we strongly believe that it is premature to ask taxpayers for $8 million for an enormous central fire station with so many unknowns, especially when there is not even a final floor plan or firm cost estimate from the architects. And why $8 million? Why not $5 million? Raising taxes now, during this economic crisis, is an unnecessary burden on the residents of Concord, especially those who have been unable to work or recently lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Concord residents sent the Trustees a very clear message last November, with more than 65% of the vote from a solid turnout, and we sincerely hope the Township heard and learned from that mandate.
We look forward to the Trustees utilizing all our tax dollars wisely and efficiently. We believe our current Trustees can be fiscally responsible and provide our emergency personnel with new, affordable fire stations.
With you in making a difference,
Affordable Concord Taxes
PRO-FIREFIGHTERS * PRO CONCORD * PRO AFFORDABLE TAXES