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Bozeman's Fire and Police chiefs propose levy to grow both departments, ask city commission for feedback

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Jun 05, 2024

BOZEMAN — On Tuesday night, Bozeman city leaders heard from Bozeman Fire Chief Josh Waldo and Police Chief Jim Veltkamp about the possibility of bringing forward a mill levy that would expand both the fire and police departments.

“It would add a fourth fire station in the southwest corner of town. That gives us another fire engine,” said Waldo.

Bozeman’s fire and police chiefs asked city leaders for input on an idea for a mill levy that would grow their departments.

“This would add another fire truck to the department, along with the quick response vehicles. So today we have three response units. This would move us to five,” Waldo said.

The proposed Fire Station would be similar in size to Fire Station 2, which is currently under construction on Montana State University’s campus.

“Station Two and Station Three are about the same size, and that's about what you would see out of Fire Station Four,” Waldo said.

Right now, Bozeman Fire has 52 sworn positions. This would add 22 sworn members to the fire department.

The Bozeman Police Department currently has 66 sworn officers. This proposal would add 30 sworn positions and 8 non-sworn positions. Office staff, an animal control officer, and a crash investigator would comprise non-sworn positions.

“So a number of the officers we're asking for are just to get caught up to where we should be today,” said Veltkamp.

He says this would allow the department to focus on investigations and being proactive about preventing crime.

“One of our goals of this would be to dedicate people exclusively to running traffic," Veltkamp said. “When we are not proactively responding and just reactively responding, the more calls we have, the slower our response time is.”

Both chiefs say fully staffing would not happen overnight. Waldo says the earliest a fourth fire station can be built and staffed would be at least 2027.

“We’ve got to have the firetruck to put the people on,” he said.

Both say that the cost and tax burden this will have on residents is still being studied.

“The cost of this to the community is well worth keeping Bozeman the safe place that we all know and love,” Veltkamp said.

“That's what we're going to be doing over the next month, is figuring out what's the fire station going to cost us,” said Waldo.

Bozeman city leaders only gave their feedback on Tuesday night. Veltkamp and Waldo are expected to return in July with ballot language.

The Bozeman City Commission will decide in July whether to place this levy question on the November 2024 ballot.