To make its meetings more accessible to the public, the Evergreen Fire Protection District will hold regular monthly board meetings on a trial basis in the auditorium or training room on the first floor instead of the much smaller second-floor boardroom at the fire district headquarters on Bergen Parkway.
Fire Chief Garry DeJong proposed the change at a special meeting of the board on Jan. 12, saying it would make it easier for the board members to see the public face-to-face.
Under the current arrangement, the board members and fire officials sit around a large oval table in a conference room, forcing some to have their backs to members of the audience. A limited number of seats is available to the public.
“This way there will be no perception of disrespect,” DeJong said. “There’s a perception of how this table interacts with people.” All of the board members agreed to the arrangement.
The auditorium will be set up for at least the next two board meetings, Jan. 25 and Feb. 27. After that, the meeting will be moved into the training room, depending on room availability. The auditorium holds about 100 people, and the training room holds about 40.
The move seems to go along with the board’s general effort to make the board activities more accessible to the public in the aftermath of the recall election in November in which two longtime board members lost their seats. The board previously voted to have four meetings a year on Wednesday evenings, instead of the usual Friday mornings.
Four of the five members of the board were present Jan. 12: George Goldbach, Chick Dykeman, Lloyd See and Jeff deDisse. Board member Jaine Hamilton was absent.
Wildfire panel proposed
DeJong also announced his intention to push for a regional approach to the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which Walsh Environmental completed last fall. The report identifies the level of wildfire risk across a large number of fire districts in Clear Creek and Jefferson counties.
“It’s important to understand we (as a fire district) are not responsible for wildfire protection. This is Evergreen’s plan. We are in the lead. We need to decide how to deal with this plan,” DeJong said, urging board members to make themselves more familiar with it. “If constituents call you, you need to be able to tell them what is the risk.”
“This is a five- to 10-year effort. I see you creating an action plan to deal with the book. ee This is millions of dollars.”
He recommended putting together a panel of “stakeholders,” including businesspeople, homeowner associations and state officials, to work on cooperative projects like cleaning out forest slash and chipping it.
“If we pool our resources, we can get a lot of good things done,” DeJong said.
At the end of the public meeting, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the board went into a closed meeting, or executive session, to discuss unspecified real estate and personnel matters.
The meeting in general was more informational in nature, but a few actions were taken on few matters, as follows:
• Holidays for paid employees: Paid employees currently enjoy 10 holidays during the year. Employees in comparable agencies typically get 12 to 13, DeJong said, although he did not recommend increasing the number of paid holidays. The board directed the chief to study the issue and come back at the February meeting with a recommendation.
• Insurance benefits for paid employees: The board voted to endorse a switch to Rocky Mountain Health Plans of Grand Junction from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, because Anthem premiums increased 26 percent for 2008. The chief recommended the move on the basis that the Rocky Mountain premium was lower and the benefits were the same or similar.
Employees are required to have health insurance of some kind, but it doesn’t have to be through the group that has a contract with the fire district. The district contributes $525 a month, up from $435 last year, to health costs, which the employees are free to use as they want. About half have private insurance from other sources.
• The “nut fry”: The consensus of the board was that the annual function should be continued, as it is a longtime tradition in the fire service, although there should be no cigarette or cigar smoking allowed in the building. Whether or not there should be alcohol allowed was briefly discussed, but no decision was reached.
The party involves current and past members of the fire service, as well as local law enforcement officials. The name refers to Rocky Mountain oysters, or deep-fried bull testicles, the traditional food at the event.
The board agreed Chick Dykeman, as president of the board, should invite the volunteer group to make a presentation to the board about what they would like to do as far as the party is concerned, the issue of alcohol and what kind of entre should be featured. “Let them tell us what they want to do. Maybe they will want a shrimp fest,” deDisse said.
• Sprinkler system for Fire Wise garden: The board agreed to pay $500 to support a proposal by the Evergreen Garden Club to install a sprinkler system for the Fire Wise garden at department headquarters.