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Agencies in Cascade turn to voters for expansion needs as communities continue growth

The Cascade Medical Center and Cascade Rural Fire Protection District will both have funding measures on the May 17 ballot.

CASCADE, Idaho — With communities in Idaho continuing to grow and welcoming new people, it's forcing first responders to plan ahead. In order to do so, two agencies in Cascade must get the public to approve measures in the upcoming election.

"We have great challenges," Valley County Commissioner, Sherry Maupin said. "As people are joining us, their expectations are very high coming from other areas."

Growth in Valley County has been happening for a number of years, but the community saw more residents flock to the area in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maupin said it was due to people's ability to work and learn remotely. 

With more growth, resources in Cascade are creating plans and strategies to continue to provide a high level of service.

"We are an aging demographic in Valley County. We will have more and more need of good healthcare available up here," Maupin said. "It's becoming more and more difficult for our seniors to drive up and down Highway 55 or 95 to get to health care facilities."

Cascade Medical Center Hospital District (CMCHD) announced it will have a $19 million general obligation bond in the May 17 election to help fund a new medical center. Residents in the hospital’s taxing district will be asked to consider the $19 million bond over the next 30 years.

CMCHD CEO Tom Reinhardt said the current facility has become outdated and is too small for the growing community.

"We're only about half the size we need to be in order to serve the people that we take care of today," Reinhardt said.

In 2020, CMCHD hired a healthcare consulting firm to assess the expansion. Between the firm's findings and a community survey, it was determined CMCHD would need a facility three times its current size to meet current and anticipated needs.

It's not only a growing community they have to keep in mind, but the number of tourists visiting each year as well.

"Our community swells to two and three and four times its normal size certain times of the year," Reinhardt said. 

He added summer and winter are peak tourist times for Valley County.

Reinhardt said CMCHD leaders looked at ways to only renovate their current facility, but it was determined it would not be enough to bring it to what's considered "today's standard level of care."

"We don't have the physical land here to grow on," Reinhardt said. "We wouldn't be able to grow enough even to serve the people we serve today. That would be a poor investment in the future."

Reinhardt hopes the medical center will be able to expand on the services they are able to provide.

If the full bond is used, property owners will pay $68 for each $100,000 in taxable property value. So, a home assessed at $279,000 would pay $105 per year.

To fund the expansion, CMCHD will be using a mix of funds, including the hospital district’s current funds, loans, grants, and bonds. The bond is expected to cover half of the funding for the project. 

CMCHD said if the bond is approved, the medical center could be built as soon as 2025. 

"Health care is an infrastructure that is needed to support the whole community of people who live here as well as people who traveled to and through it," Reinhardt said. "It's really necessary for us to invest in those health care facilities for the good of public health."

While CMCHD is looking to expand its services and facility, Cascade Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) is looking to expand its staffing. CRFPD will ask voters to approve a property tax increase in the November election.

"We'd like to provide a high level of service and to do that, at this point, we're going to need more funding to do that," CRFPD Chief, Steven Hull said.

The district is proposing an increase of $.83 per $1,000 for a total of $1.33 per $1,000.00 of assessed value. Citizens in Cascade currently pay $.50 per $1,000.00 of assessed value.

According to Hull, the increase will be about $600,000, with most of it used to hire new staff; three additional firefighter/paramedics, three additional EMT/firefighters, a full-time deputy chief, and a full-time secretary.

"We'll double the amount of staff that we have on right now," Hull said.

Hull said his crew was able to go many years just getting by, but costs have risen and they have fewer volunteers to do a high service job.

Looking at the past 10 years, the number of incidents of CRFPD responded to each year has grown substantially. In 2010, crews responded to 285 incidents. Since 2019, they've responded to more than 420 incidents in each year.

"With the additional growth we will have more calls and more back-to-back calls," Hull said. "That's the hard part for me to be able to staff for that is the back-to-back calls."

CRFPD is 110 square miles and contracts with Valley County to provide EMS services to 1300 square miles.

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