Sunday, December 03, 2023

Fisher River Valley Fire seeks county’s help with truck loan

The Western News | November 14, 2023 7:00 AM

Less than a month after getting the blessing of the county for an assessment increase from property owners in the Fisher River Valley Fire District, Fire Service Area representatives are hoping the county can bail them out of a precarious financial situation.

While no one from the Fisher River Valley Fire Service Area was present at the Lincoln County Commissioners meeting on Nov. 1, District 1 Commissioner Brent Teske read a letter from representatives Stu Crismore and Jerry Auger.

The letter explained that the department bought a Pierce Structure fire engine in November 2021 with financing through the Montana Board of Investments INTERCAP Loan Program. At the time of the purchase the adjustable interest rate was 1.65% In February 2022, the rate was decreased to 1.55%

But in February 2023, the interest rate increased to 6% According to information in the letter, this increase changed the amount due by $12,420 this year.

In the letter from Crismore and Auger, they wrote that the interest rate is evaluated each February and could increase or decrease, depending on the market.

They also asserted that because the department’s budget is based on a fixed assessment fee and variable revenue from a wild land fire contract with the state Department of Natural Resources, managing the increase would be difficult because of the significant change in interest.

In the letter, the Fire Service Area Board proposed a new loan from the county at a fixed rate comparable to its original rate of 1.65% The estimated balance, reported in the letter, will be $274,000 on an 8- to 10-year schedule. It also said if the Fire Service Area reaches an agreement with the county, an exact payoff from the state INTERCAP Loan Program would be provided.

Teske said the county has done this in this past, but, “Do we want to do it now?”

District 2 Commissioner Jim Hammons asked if the money could from PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) money. Teske replied, “Yes.”

The commissioners agreed that 2% interest was fair and that they’d come up with an agreement.

"If they can assist us it would be good for the board and the community," Auger, the board secretary, said. "The jump in interest rates would be quite a bit for us to take on. And the county can make a little bit of interest on it, too."