Wallace council approves Fire District No. 1 annexation ordinance

by CHANSE WATSON
Managing Editor | November 13, 2020 9:39 AM

WALLACE — It was an unanimous decision Tuesday night when the Wallace City Council approved an ordinance to be annexed by Shoshone County Fire District No. 1.

Currently, the city of Wallace contracts services with SCFD No. 1, but is not actually a part of the district. The arrangement has been in place since the early 1990s when the Wallace Fire Department was disbanded.

While this ordinance approval doesn't make annexation official just yet, it is an important first step.

SCFD No. 1 Commissioner John Specht explains that the next step is for the ordinance to be posted publicly. A 30-day comment period may then be opened up to hear the community's thoughts on the matter. If all of that goes well, the SCFD No. 1 Commissioners would need to approve the request for annexation, then be approved once more by the Shoshone County Board of County Commissioners (as the county collects the taxes for SCFD No. 1).

If annexation goes the distance, SCFD No. 1 Chief Aaron Cagle explains that Wallace residents will not see any change in their level of service. What may change though is the amount of money Wallace residents will be paying in taxes to the city and/or the fire district.

For roughly the last 30 years, Wallace residents have been taxed a little extra by Wallace so they could in-turn pay SCFD No. 1 the agreed upon amount in the contract. The problem with this is that Wallace's price for service has been lower than what other cities within the district have been paying in taxes (the disparagement has fluctuated from year to year).

Chief Cagle explains that this is a violation of Idaho Code, which states that any entity that contracts with a fire district must pay the same amount as cities within the district.

Commissioner Specht added that this annexation was precipitated by the passage of the firehouse bond in 2017 — a bond in which Wallace residents did not get to vote on, due to their contract status.

"When the citizens of the fire district voted for the bond to build a new station, they essentially assessed themselves more than what the city of Wallace was paying," Specht said.

This left Wallace with two options — either pay an additional amount in their contract equal to what the other cities were paying for the bond, or be annexed into the district and be assessed the same amount. The actions of the council Tuesday night show that they appear to have chosen the latter of the two options.

With annexation still in the very early stages, specific taxing numbers are not available at this time.

Wallace City Councilman Dean Cooper is pleased with the passage of the ordinance and states that this will be better for all involved.

"Everybody in the district is better off with Wallace being included instead of contracting," he said. "With Wallace contributing to the bond amount, it will in-turn lower the payment amounts for everyone."

The citizens of Wallace wouldn't see a change in their taxes until October 2021, when the new tax year begins.