Passage of Measure I would keep fire services in place

When someone’s home catches fire in Rick Priola’s neighborhood in the San Mateo hills, firefighters are there in what seems like mere seconds.

“The response time is great — they come right through our back gate and they’re right here,” Priola said.

This was not always the case — and, if Measure I gets an unexpected “no” vote next week, it may not be in the future.

Since 1982, residents of the Eichler Highlands and other nearby unincorporated neighborhoods have been taxing themselves about $65 a month to make sure they get sufficient fire and police services. Since the area is in the county, it isn’t served by city fire and police services. Instead, the area depends on the county’s Sheriff’s Office and the state fire department, said Cary Weist, president of the area’s neighborhood association.

However, by assessing themselves $65 annually, residents pay for the Sheriff’s Office to post extra patrols in the neighborhood and for Cal Fire to devote an extra fire truck and emergency medical responders to the area.

Every four years, the community must vote again to approve the tax. But thus far, it has not been a challenge to get two-thirds of the voters to say yes, Weist said.

“It’s kind of tough to say with all the budgetary issues right now that affect everybody’s household as well as the county and the state, but this community, since way back in the 1980s, has always supported this,” he said.

Priola moved to the neighborhood in the second grade, and today, some 45 years later, still lives there. When he was a kid, the community had hired a private security guard to make up for the lack of police and fire services. When the community voted for the extra services in 1982, he saw the response times from the county drop.

Over the years, he said, he’s had to call the Sheriff’s Office a few times for problems such as identity theft, strange calls and nuisances in the neighborhood. He said he believes the tax is worth it.

“They’re always right there," he said. “For $65, it gives you so much. It’s a more secure feeling, knowing they have a dedicated officer up here at all times,” he said.

kworth@examiner.com

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