AMMON, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Ammon Fire Department firefighters are serving their last day under the city of Ammon. Thursday marks the beginning of their new leadership under Bonneville County Fire District #1.
The turnover means the Ammon Fire Department employees will now be Fire District employees.
Ammon Fire Department will drive the same trucks with the same paint schemes and everything will look the same on the outside. They will cover the same area and have the same jurisdiction within the city of Ammon. Internally, employees’ paychecks will now come from the Fire District rather than the city.
AFD covers roughly eight square miles, and they will not add any fire protection coverage area to their jurisdiction.
“What we protect today, we will be protecting the exact same area tomorrow,” Deputy Chief, Keith Banda said. “It’s just a matter of where the tax money goes for fire protection. Where it was going to the city before but now it’s going to be going to the Fire District and paying for fire protection in the city of Ammon.”
Ammon operates within Bonneville County Fire District #1 and as Ammon has been annexed many times, it has caused the Fire District to lose jurisdiction over these areas.
“With the city of Ammon joining the Fire District, that tax revenue base for fire protection will stay and it will not take away from the collected fire district taxes,” Banda said.
Ammon residents will not pay higher taxes for fire protection as the rate is relatively equal right now when comparing Fire District versus city rates.
“In the past, we’ve had quite a bit of a difference,” Banda said. “It wasn’t advantageous for the average citizen to have that much of a jump in their taxes if we were going to merge or go into the Fire District. But now, it’s not the same. Values have gone up and now they’ve kind of met at the same level.”
Banda says the Fire Department leaving the city will decrease the city’s budget from losing those taxes. The Fire District will then increase the same amount. Taxpayers will not notice a change.
“Our organizational chart, currently, we fall under the mayor and the city council. Now, the governing elected body is going to be the fire commission for Bonneville County Fire District #1, that’s the only difference,” Banda said, “So the money is coming from the Fire District, and now they’re the ones that are basically in charge of us.”
AFD transitioned from a volunteer fire department in 2006 and will maintain all part-time employees as well as 6 full-time employees on staff through the transition into Bonneville Fire District #1.
Banda says this combination fire department model minimizes the impact of overtime when overtime is needed. Part time employees fill in for full time employees and are paid their straight rate rather than needing to pay overtime rates. Employees’ income and the model of service will not be changing.
In the years of operating as a volunteer fire department, Banda says training standards were totally different. As the AFD implemented full-time employees, they also instituted an internationally recognized standard for training. Now, all firefighters with the city of Ammon, no matter their part or full time status go through the same training.
“They’re qualified, just like any other firefighter,” Banda said.