Two seek Central Platte post

The Central Platte Fire Protection District provides fire and emergency medical services to the Platte City and Tracy areas. It is funded by a tax levy of 31.31 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on property within the district. The fire department has two fire stations — one in downtown Platte City and the other at Interurban and Winan Roads east of Platte City. It uses four fire trucks and is staffed by more than three dozen volunteer firefighters and a volunteer chief and assistant chiefs. Firefighters are paid a $14 stipend for each fire/emergency medical call they respond to. The fire department annually responds to more than 1,000 calls per year. In 2012 and 2013, the amount paid out to firefighters for calls responded to was about $145,000 per year. Central Platte is governed by a three-person board of directors who are elected to six-year terms. Current board members include Paul Regan, Andy Stanton and Mike Ashcraft. Ashcraft was appointed to the Board after longtime board member Junior Coons passed away in 2012. His spot is up for election and will be decided by voters in the April 8 General Municipal and School Board election. Ashcraft will seek election to the post, as will Russell “Rusty” Townsend. Following are profiles of the candidates. MIKE ASHCRAFT Ashcraft, 63, has been a Platte City resident since 1976. He and his wife of more than 40 years, Judy, are the parents of a grown daughter, Sara, a 2011 Platte County High school graduate. Ashcraft is a United States Navy veteran and is retired from Teamsters Union Local 41, where he was a member for 32 years. For the past seven years, he has driven a bus for the Platte County R-3 School District. “I have always enjoyed our community and I am now in a position where I can dedicate my time and volunteer for community services,” Ashcraft said. “I plan on staying in Platte County and would like to give back to the community.” Ashcraft said his military training and the training he received at the state training for fire district board members the past few years will “help me have the knowledge that I need for the betterment of the department.” Ashcraft said Central Platte faces many challenges in the future, with the growth of the community and the need for another station. He said an immediate need is the replacement of one of the department’s four pumper fire trucks, which is 28 years old. The district has to meet a certain water gallonage capacity amongst its fire trucks, which requires it having four front-line pumpers. The 28-year-old pumper will not meet Insurance Service Office (ISO) ratings next year and if the department does not replace it with a newer truck, the ISO rating will likely rise from its current 4 rating, an excellent rating for a volunteer department. This could cause an increase in area homeowners’ insurance rates. The Central Platte Board has held discussions on the purchase of a new truck the past few months and has identified a new Pierce pumper truck at a cost of approximately $650,000. “I’m not real wild about spending that money on a new pumper, but we have to keep up that ISO rating,” Ashcraft said. He added that other factors which play into Central Platte’s excellent ISO rating include response times and number of responders. “Our guys do a great job in both of those areas,” Ashcraft said. “It’s important to me that we keep our standards high, ensuring that the community sees the best possible service and value for the tax dollars spent.” RUSSELL “RUSTY” TOWNSEND Townsend, 43, is a Platte City resident and 1989 Platte County High School graduate. He and his wife, Trisha, are parents to three school-age children. Townsend is a Unites States Army veteran and is a trainer/lead driver for Land Air Express, whom he has worked for the past 10 years. Townsend served as a Central Platte firefighter from 1993-2007 and was one of several candidates the Board considered to replace Coons before appointing Ashcraft in 2012. Townsend says his experience as a firefighter makes him a good candidate for the Board of Directors. “Serving both in the Army and on the fire department has trained me to deal with many things and problems,” Townsend said. “I could list many things I think qualifies me for the position, but it comes down to experience on the department. That will help me with an insight to the fire department problems and solutions. For an example, if your pipes are leaking you don’t call an electrician; you call a plumber to fix it.” Townsend says the department faces many challenges, “from the morale of the department to the expectations of taxpayers.” He agrees with Ashcraft that the district’s ISO rating of 4 needs to be maintained. “Reader’s Digest version is a better score equals cheaper insurance, which equals cheaper taxes,” he said. Townsend said he understands the need for a new pumper, but thinks the department can refrain from spending money on such things as “gold-leaf decorations” for the truck, which it has paid for in the past. He also said that he wants to help the fire department improve its public image, which he said has taken a hit in recent years. “After serving 14 years on the fire department I have a great respect and love for the department,” Townsend said. “I may have retired as a firefighter but I can still help the department as a board member and give back to the department and community.”