Rural fire district efforts drawing support

Efforts to form a rural fire district in Dawson County have seen a good response, with about 85 percent of the needed signatures verified as of Tuesday.

“It is imperative we get enough,” Commissioner Gary Kartevold said. “It opens a can of worms if it doesn’t pass.”

There are 1,481 parcels of land that are subject to inclusion in the proposed rural fire district, according to Clerk and Recorder Shirley Kreiman.

She said 40 percent or 593 parcels must petition for the district to be created, regardless of how many individuals are owners of each parcel.

“The petition has to be signed exactly as on the property deed,” Kartevold said.

Kreiman said County Registrar of Deeds Denise Alberts has done a lot of work verifying parcel ownership and ensuring signatures match deeds, and she has returned several petitions to obtain additional signatures.

On Tuesday, with two weeks remaining before the May 15 goal to complete the petition, the county had received verified and complete petitions for 508 parcels. This means another 85 are required for the commissioners to take action to create the district.

If and when at least 40 percent of the parcels have petitioned the commissioners, Kreiman said the commissioners will hold a public hearing and can then vote to create the district. The matter will not be placed on an election ballot.

As previously reported, about a month ago landowners in rural Dawson County – areas outside of Glendive and West Glendive – received letters informing them that the taxes and agreements in place for rural fire protection only cover wildland fires.

“The statute reads that legally we are only required to fight wildland fires,” West Glendive Fire Chief Richie Crisafulli said in March. “We’ve always responded to all the fires.”

The commissioners say the current tax levy of about 2.27 mills doesn’t generate nearly enough money to pay the current contract with the WGFD.

As a result of this revenue shortfall and legal limbo, a petition was created asking the commissioners to create a rural fire district to encompass all the land outside of Glendive and the area of the West Glendive Fire District.

The commissioners said in March they expect the district would levy 6.27 mills in order to ensure full fire protection to the district.

Petitions may be signed at the Dawson County Courthouse. Questions should be directed to the commissioners at 377-3562.

Reach Chad Knudson at rrpub@rangerreview.com.

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