Letter to the editor: Vote yes on the Bend fire levy

By Ted. C. Lyster /

I came to Bend in early 1965 (almost 50 years ago), when the population was about 12,500 and most folks lived inside the city limits. At that time, Bend was a lumber town located at the crossroads of the state. St. Charles Hospital was on the hill near the center of town and the city had one fire hall (downtown), and only one two-wheel drive ambulance.

A lot has changed since then. Today, the area population is about 100,000 with many of the “newcomers” retirees. St. Charles Hospital is now a giant “state-of-the-art” medical center located northeast of Pilot Butte and the fire department has five fully equipped rescue ambulances in firehouse substations located strategically throughout the coverage area.

It sounds great, the Cinderella story of a logging community that has evolved into a modern, upscale, city that’s home to a world-class medical facility.

So what’s the problem? We have the hospital and each fire substation has its fire engines and an ambulance.

The problem is that, for the first time in its history, the Bend Fire Department and the Deschutes Rural Fire Protection District No. 2 cannot, within the constraints of their current budget, afford to hire and train enough qualified personnel to consistently meet satisfactory response times, and on ambulance calls minutes are very precious, often the difference between life and death.

The most highly skilled surgeon in the world, operating in the finest equipped hospital, is of little help if the patient doesn’t survive to get to him.

So what’s the answer? Money, of course; it takes money to hire and train the backup crews so that they are available to cover when the on-duty personnel are called out.

The solution is simple, and it’s easy. All that needs to be done is pass the upcoming five-year bond measure: 9-97 for those in RFD2 and 9-98 for Bend voters, it’s relatively painless. The levies, respectively, will cost 20 cents per $1,000 valuation per year for five years. That’s $50 per year for owners of a $250,000 home, but that will effectively be reduced to about $15 per year due to the expiration of the Bend Library and Deschutes County jail levies. That’s a small price to pay if it saves the life of a loved one.

My home is outside the city, and I know that if a member of my family is sick or injured and needs an ambulance, I want them to get help as soon as absolutely possible and I’m sure you feel the same way about your family. Those first few minutes are golden and could well mean the difference between life and death.

The Bend Fire Department and the Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District need your help so that they can help you when it really counts.

Please vote YES on ballot measure 9-97/9-98.

Let me add one more thing. Our great nation was founded by people who wanted to have a voice in their own destiny. For almost 240 years, Americans have fought, bled and died to protect the right of citizens to vote and control their own future through the power of the secret ballot. Please don’t waste their sacrifice.

The ballots for this election have already been mailed and by this time you should have received them. It’s up to you to make an informed decision, mark your choices, sign the envelope, add a stamp and mail them. It’s a small effort to repay a huge debt to those who have earned you this right. Please vote!

— Ted C. Lyster lives in Bend.