Fire district repays $770K bond

ECFR used funds from property sale to pay off debt, save taxpayers nearly $100K in interest

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Fire vehicles sit outside East County Fire and Rescue Station 91, just north of Camas' city limits, in 2020. The fire district, which serves rural areas north of Camas and Washougal, recently used proceeds from a property sale to repay a $770,000 bond and save taxpayers nearly $100,000 in interest payments. (Contributed photo courtesy of East County Fire and Rescue)

In the past two years, local residents have supported the East County Fire and Rescue district (ECFR) by approving a fire levy lid lift and a six-year emergency medical services renewal levy. Without that assistance, ECFR, a small district that generates its revenue almost exclusively through property taxes, would certainly be facing more severe economic hardships right now than it already is.

The district recently received a large sum of money in a property transaction, and its board members decided to use those funds in a way that would express their appreciation to the taxpayers for their help.

“It seems like they’ve been awfully supportive these last few years,” said ECFR Fire Chief Mike Carnes. “We’re always saying that we’re in dire straits and we need money and blah blah blah, but we wanted to have some good news for a change instead of dire news.”

The district is delivering that good news by paying off a $770,000 general obligation bond that it purchased in 2007 to help pay for a portion of its Fern Prairie station and some equipment. The payment will save ECFR taxpayers an estimated $95,570 in interest, according to Carnes.

The district used the $330,598.70 it received from the city of Washougal, which purchased one of the ECFR’s station buildings last year, to pay off the bond, which was due at the end of 2027.

“The one other option was to place the funds from the sale of Station 95 into our capital facilities reserve,” ECFR board chair Martha Martin said. “(But) we looked at the bond itself, which had a balloon payment due at the end of 2027 of $272,740 along with the interest saved with the early payoff, and made the decision that saving the district interest now and avoiding a future large hit to our budget in 2027 made the most sense fiscally for our taxpayers.”

Carnes said that “the commissioners and our staff are pretty proud of being able to” make the early payment.

“It also gives us a little more revenue each year because we’re not making that bond payment,” he said. “That adds a little bit more on the revenue side that at this point in time doesn’t have an expenditure to it. When we go to budget for next year, we’ll have that bit of extra money to do something with.”