Special District Transparency Information
Ballot Issues for the West Routt Fire Protection District
For the last several years, the Fire Chief and the Board of Directors of the West Routt Fire Protection District have been seriously concerned about aging equipment, an ever-shrinking group of volunteers, and the increasing cost to provide services.
Nearly all of the District's equipment and its facilities are approaching obsolescence. The District's fire house was constructed in the 1980’s. While it is still sufficient to keep vehicles under cover and provides basic facilities for men, it is not an energy efficient structure and does not provide sufficient facilities for the employees and volunteers. Even the District's basic firefighter "bunker" gear is dated and in need of replacement -- coats, overalls, helmets, communication equipment, etc. The ambulances are the most up-to-date vehicles that the District has (2004 and 2012); the fire trucks are all older than that and one is 50 years old this year. While the fire trucks have been well maintained and may look good, they do not meet current standards for the health and safety of the volunteers who use these vehicles.
There are a number of factors which have resulted in the District having fewer volunteers available to provide firefighting and emergency care services. During difficult economic times, employers have cut back on the number of people employed. This has resulted in employers being less willing and able to have an employee suddenly leave the business for a few hours to respond to an emergency call. Many people who live in the District are employed outside the District and are not physically available to provide volunteer services. And, the basic training requirements for firefighters and for emergency medical personnel require a greater effort and commitment from volunteers than in the past.
Increasing cost to provide services.
The District, like with individuals, has had to deal with the increasing costs of everyday items like supplies, fuel and utilities. However, with old gear and equipment, as noted above, the costs of maintenance and repairs have been increasing. Short-term emergency care, as provided with the District’s ambulance service requires current medical technology, equipment, and medications. To be able to provide these services requires a high level of emergency services training. And, while the District attempts to recover its costs for ambulance services, it frequently must accept a small percentage of the billed cost -- from insurance companies, Medicaid, Medicare or the patient.
The governing board for the District -- its 5-member Board of Directors -- conducted a community survey in 2011 and found general support for an increase in funding for the Fire District. However, when the question was put to the voters in November of that year, the voters firmly turned down the District's request.
The Board returned to its discussion of the District's financial issues over the winter of 2012 - 2013, and by spring had decided that it needed some help from the community. The Board invited a number of community leaders to a meeting, and asked those who attended for some of their time and for their assistance. The Board appointed an advisory committee and asked that committee to provide the District with a recommendation on when and how to approach the community.
This citizen committee included a number of community members -- people who had supported the District’s previous ballot request and people who had opposed it. These community members listened to the concerns of the Fire Chief and the District Board, and quickly recognized that the District needs additional revenues in order to continue providing fire and ambulance services. This volunteer committee met five times in June and July, 2013, before preparing a brief report and submitting its recommendations to the District Board near the end of July:
"The principal task of the committee was to study the issue of adequate funding for the district. The members were struck by the facts that the district has functioned without a tax increase for over 30 years, and that the voters rejected a proposed mill levy increase in November 2011. The committee noted that since 1981, when Routt County formed the separate fire protection districts, there has not been designated funding for ambulance/EMS services. Because of this, although there are numerous other, important needs of the district, the committee voted unanimously to recommend a 1.5 mill levy be placed before the voters in the November, 2013 election. This would generate approximately $175,000.00, which is about what the Fire District absorbs as a budget shortfall, in support of ambulance/EMS, annually. Further, the committee recommends that a bond be placed before the voters in 1-2 years, to assist in funding other vital needs, as noted below."
In addition, the committee expressed specific concerns about:
"Aging equipment with issues of both staff safety and community protection," and, "Personnel issues, including retirement of the Chief and a decline in the number of volunteers."
• At a special meeting of the District Board on July 30th, the committee presented its recommendations. The District Board accepted the committee's report and its advice, and has begun moving in the direction of:
• Preparing a ballot question to be included in the November election, as recommended by the committee; and
• Considering the nature and extent of a bond question to be sent to the voters in either 2014 or 2015.
© 2013 - West Routt Fire & Creative Bearings, Inc