Ballots for the recall election are being mailed this week to residents of the Evergreen Fire Protection District.
As district residents decide on whether, and how, to cast their votes, they are relying on information presented on the mail-in ballots, on candidate profiles posted on the Canyon Courier website — and other related articles published in the newspaper.
Recall candidates Barry Pier, Dan Koller, Paul Peil and Jodi Kesten are challenging board members George Kling, Charles Simons, Jeff deDisse and David Christensen in the April 23 election. (Fire board member Valeri Leswing is not eligible for the recall; she was recently appointed to fill a vacancy.)
A fire training facility in progress at Fire Station 2 in Bergen Park was the catalyst for the recall campaign.
After months of protests and negotiations with fire district board members and staff, a group of residents opposed to the project initiated the recall last November. Those involved in the recall have said the facility is being built too close to a school and neighborhood, in which many of them live.
Since selecting candidates to run in the election, the recall committee has defined and expanded its rationale for the recall. In addition to their objections to the fire training facility with live burn capability, the recall candidates have raised questions about the fire board’s management of the district.
Recall committee members are questioning the fire department’s response times to calls, which they say are inadequate, as well as the fire board’s decision to spend $500,000 on the training facility. Opponents also say that an alternative site for firefighter training exists at the West Metro training center in Lakewood.
Evergreen Fire Chief Mike Weege and fire board members strongly support the facility, which they say is vital for adequate firefighter training. They say the training facility is safe, and that live burning will take place in an enclosed room 12 times a year.
Fire board members also have said that a local facility is necessary to minimize the amount of time volunteers spend in training sessions. Traveling to Lakewood or Commerce City, where firefighters have been doing minimal live burn training, takes too much time, they say.
The fire board members also say the financial management of the department is sound, and note that the district has earned an Aa2 credit rating.
Regarding response times to calls, Weege has said that current information is not available, and that data the recall candidates have presented has been inaccurately compiled and presented.
One resident in the fire district has raised another question about where the candidates and current fire board members live. Brook Forest resident Philip Howe said that he would like to see representatives from various areas of the 125-square-mile fire district on the board.
After doing research on the addresses of the candidates and incumbents, Howe said, he discovered that the recall candidates all live in a residential area near Fire Station 2. Among the current fire board, two members live in northern and central areas of the district, and two near the Bergen Park station.
Howe said he is trying to learn as much as possible about the issue before deciding how to vote in the election.
Residents seeking to become more acquainted with the candidates challenging the four board members have an opportunity to attend a presentation sponsored by the recall committee on April 3 at Evergreen High School at 7 p.m.
The designated election official for the recall election must receive ballots by 7 p.m. April 23 in order for them to be counted.
Fire training facility information
Description: A prefabricated, three-story building with Class A live burn capability.
Location: Evergreen Fire Station 2, 1802 Bergen Parkway
Dimensions: 22-by-48-foot building footprint; maximum height of 34. 5 feet
Cost: Approximately $500,000
Screening: 8-foot masonry wall; large conifer trees
· Wood will be ignited during live burn training, which will take place in a 100-square-foot stainless steel room of the facility approximately 12 times a year. Firefighters will not train during red-flag days when the risk of fire is high.
· Site plan approved by Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission with staff recommendation in September 2012.
· Jeffco Planning and Zoning Department received 573 signed letters of support for the facility, and 379 transmittals stating opposition, more than 150 of which contained redacted (blacked-out) signatures.
· Jefferson County Schools did not take a position on the facility, which is near Bergen Meadow Elementary School.
· Detailed information about the project can be found in the “Active Cases, Site Approval” section of the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning website at jeffco.us/planning. The case number is 12-116101SA.