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Big Sky voters to decide on fire department levy

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BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Big Sky Fire Department says it takes them more than 15 minutes to respond to over 20 percent of their calls. That is above the recommended national standard. It is one of the reasons voters in Big Sky will see a mill levy on their ballot.

Fire Chief William Farhat said he is not comfortable with the level of service his team has been providing. With calls doubling since 2005, Farhat said it gets harder every year to keep up with the growth in the community.

"We had a professional firm come in and estimate how many calls we're going to be facing. They had an estimated number that we would reach in 2020 but we're reaching that midway through this year," Farhat said.

The mill levy on this year's ballot is worth $1.5 million. The owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 dollars would pay an additional $3.27 a month. That adds up to almost $40 extra dollars a year.

Funds generated through the levy would pay for renovations at both of Big Sky's fire stations. Neither station was designed to house firefighters overnight so at station two, bedrooms will be added. That will allow the building to be staffed 24 hours a day.

At fire station one, Farhat hopes to add heating and air conditioning to existing bedrooms. Bathrooms, kitchens and other interior spaces would also be remodeled for efficiency. Farhat said the roof also needs replacing as it is leaking and causing damage to the building.

The levy also funds 11 new positions. The proposed positions are nine firefighters, one fire marshal and one fire inspector. Farhat said having more employees would allow the department to spread out enough staff to handle calls in different parts of town.

"This is not an extravagance. We need to have these people, we need to do these renovations," Farhat said.

If the levy fails, Farhat said he'll bring it to the voters again because the needs in Big Sky won't slow down any time soon.

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