Lucille Harris and Dean Uecker have launched a fund to place Measure A on the June ballot in a bid to raise taxes to staff Ripon’s new Fire Station 3 at North Ripon Road and River Road as well as to make sure the Ripon Consolidated Fire Department’s paramedic ambulance service is adequately funded.
They presented checks totaling $2,100 through daughter Marcia Perkins and granddaughter Meredith Perkins to Fire Department board member Harrison Gibbs Tuesday afternoon hoping the monies will serve to help put the funding measure on the upcoming ballot.
The Ripon department, founded in 1921, covers an area far beyond the city limits and extends into the confines of the Ripon Unified School District’s boundaries requiring more equipment and more personnel than would be needed for just a city of some 17,000 residents.
The Ripon Fire District covers some 56 square miles, protecting a population of approximately 23,500 residents inside and outside of the city. Fire Chief Dennis Bitters said his department is a full-service district agency providing services such as fire suppression, rescue, boat river rescue, hazardous materials response and emergency medical services. It also operates the Ripon ambulance service beginning in 1974 with the distinction of being the first and longest running ambulance life support paramedic agency in San Joaquin County.
Harris representing the Harris Properties and her Tuff Boy Trailer Sales firm donated $2,000 toward the campaign with an estimated total of some $10,000 required to put the Measure A on the June Ballot. Ripon Councilman Dean Uecker added his check for $100 to the fund with hopes other community-minded residents will follow suit in the effort to get their measure on the ballot.
Of the three fire stations, only the one in downtown Ripon is staffed 24 hours a day over three shifts. In addition to answering emergency calls, those Station One firefighters provide weekly training for volunteers, conduct safety inspections, vehicle and facilities maintenance, public education and other community services. Station 2 and Station 3 are staffed when volunteers are available to cover them, thus the importance of funding the staffing of the new Station 3 on North Ripon Road.
The Fire Department is not part of the City of Ripon and does not receive any funding from the city. Operations and Capital funding support the department. Operating revenues are generated from two sources primarily: property taxes and ambulance service charges. The Capitol income is generated by fees charged to new housing developments and can only be used to purchase land, facilities, vehicles and equipment with the Operating Revenues being used for payroll and day-to-day operational costs.
“As the city grows and spreads out,” Chief Bitters said, “response times are adversely affected as travel times are increased. Calls for service increase and instances of concurrent multiple calls are more prevalent. This occurred 257 times in the last year,” he added.
Bitters noted that his department has its roots as a volunteer department but as less people are available to commit the time and training required, it has transitioned into a combination department utilizing both paid, volunteer and reserve personnel to accomplish the stated mission of protecting the public.
“The San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services Agency also levies fines when our ambulance is late in arriving at a call. An urban ambulance response time in excess of seven minutes and 59 seconds results in a $10 a minute. Even one second over the time limit results in a fine and this fine amount will most likely increase in the near future,” the chief said.
The Ripon Fire District was forced to write off over $1.3 million last year in transporting Medicare and Medical patients who did not have a secondary insurance to bill, Bitters noted.
Those interested in help ing fund the ballot measure can contact Gibbs at 599-5666.
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