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Fire board approves funds for training facility

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Board resolution suggests building could be moved in the future

By Sandy Barnes

The Evergreen Fire Protection District board appropriated $500,000 in funds to build the proposed fire training facility at Evergreen Fire Station 2 — while also agreeing to seek another site for future use at the Dec. 11 meeting.

Fire Chief Mike Weege said he is waiting to get the final schedule from the contractor, and that the prefabricated building is expected to arrive in six to eight weeks. Rewriting the specifications for the facility and reducing its height from four to three stories saved $7,500 on the project, he said.

The board’s decision came after another extended discussion with residents opposed to locating the building at the site, which is near homes in Bergen Park.

Dan Murphy was among residents who asked the board to delay the project to allow time to build a “gold standard” facility at another location.

“I would ask you five guys to delay the burn building and do fund-raising. Take the high road,” said Murphy. “Go out, find a property — and do it right.”

Resident Lynn Rehkopf, who has been negotiating with the board on the issue, also asked that the board take time to find another site to build a facility that would provide sufficient space to train.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” she said.

“I see no reason to postpone the project,” said board member Charlie Simons. “I fail to see how 12 trainings a year with live fire will disrupt residents.”

After the board voted for the expenditure, Simons presented a resolution saying the board would support a long-term goal of finding an alternate site that is agreeable with the community.

“If we could find another place that’s suitable, I’m all for it,” said Simons.

Simons also suggested that the building could be moved from the Bergen Park station to another location.

“It’s portable. It’s movable,” he said.

“Let’s go forward,” said board member David Christensen. “If there’s a better site, we can look at it.”

“Are we short-changing ourselves by building here and then moving it?” asked Rehkopf.

“We definitely do not feel we are short-changing ourselves at all,” replied firefighter Chris Johnson. “It is fulfilling a big need now; the sooner, the better.”

Resident Bob Gottsman said he thought the project should be delayed to allow the emotions around the issue to subside.

“The big thing I can’t get my hands around is why it’s a crisis,” Gottsman said.

Other residents supported the fire district board’s decision.

“It seems to me that credit ought to be given to the firefighters,” said resident Russ Campbell. “I still believe firefighters know what they need. I don’t see the advantage of deferring this. If there’s a recall, there’s a recall.”

As a result of the fire district board’s decision to move forward with the training facility in Bergen Park, a group of residents has initiated a recall of all five members.

According to the most recent estimates from fire district staff, the recall would cost $218,160 for mail-in ballots and $70,000 for a polling place where 20,800 eligible voters could cast ballots. The expenses for the mail-in ballots include approximately $39,000 for postage, $85,000 in legal fees and $15,000 for a vendor to count the ballots. The fire district pays for the recall.

“It’s a foolish thing for people to do,” said Evergreen Fire/Rescue Capt. Jeff Ashford. “It’s idiotic to spend $70,000 to move these (board members) out.”

 

Mill-levy decrease

The bond refinancing that fire district board has approved will decrease the mill levy that residents pay the fire district from 1.66 to 1.46 mills, Weege said.

The refinancing of $5 million in bonds is expected to save the district 12 percent, he said.

The fire districts AA rating has helped with the bond refinancing, Weege added.

Dec. 18 was the projected sale date for the bonds.

 

Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.