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Voters OK South Kalispell Fire Department levy for new fire station

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Daily Inter Lake | May 5, 2021 10:10 AM

South Kalispell Fire Department Fire Chief Chris Yerkes is a happy man after voters in his district overwhelmingly voted for a levy increase Tuesday to build a second fire station.

According to figures from the Flathead County Election Department, voters approved the increase by a wide margin, 536-280.

“We were cautiously optimistic when we were doing our community outreach because many of the people we spoke with were in favor of it,” Yerkes said. “Now we can breathe a sigh of relief.”

Yerkes recently told the Daily Inter Lake story the rapid population growth in the valley has led to a growth in calls for service from about three dozen 20 years ago to more than 500 in 2020.

The 16-mill levy request is a permanent one and according to figures from Yerkes, would increase property taxes nearly $50 annually on a property valued at $100,000.

The money will be used to help secure a low interest loan to build a new fire station on Airport Road — currently a high-growth corridor — and cover increasing costs for equipment.

“We’re very thankful to the voters in our district and we look forward to serving them from a second location,” Yerkes said.

The opportunity to build another fire station occurred late last year when local residents Devar and Vicky Gardner donated 5 acres of land to the department.

“It was an incredibly generous gift,” Yerkes said. “There are more and more people building homes in that area, Patrick Creek Road and it’s all part of the wildland-urban interface where the risks to residences are increasing.” The South Kalispell Fire District, despite annexations over the years, still covers a large area. It is bounded on the north by the Conrad Complex, on the east by the Evergreen Fire District and Flathead River, to the south by the Somers-Lakeside District and to the west by Smith Valley District and Airport Road.

The chief said the estimate to construct a new station was $450,000 one year ago, but is $600,000 now.

The new station would have three bays and would house a Type 3 engine and a water tender. Yerkes said the hope is to acquire a wildland fire engine in the future.

“I’m not sure when the money will become available, but we have been saving some money we can use to begin site development for the new station and we have a board meeting next week, so we’ll have a better idea of what we’ll be doing in the next several months.”

Scott Shindledecker may be reached at sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com or 406-758-4441.