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Fire training facility opponents submit signatures for recall petition

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By Sandy Barnes

A group of Evergreen residents advocating the recall of fire district board members have submitted petitions signed by more than 450 people to the election officer handling the initiative

“We thought that would make a loud enough statement,” said resident Cal Winn, who signed the original recall documents.

Winn and other residents who have been collecting signatures to recall the five Evergreen Fire Protection District board members are opposed to the plan to place a fire training facility with live burn capabilities in Bergen Park. 

Although only 300 signatures were required to move forward with a recall election, Winn said a decision was made to gather more than necessary to ensure the validity of the petitions.

The $500,000 facility, which the fire district board has approved and appropriated funds to build, would have an enclosed area in which live burn training would take place approximately 12 times a year.

Evergreen Fire Chief Mike Weege and fire board members say the facility is necessary to provide adequate training for volunteer firefighters at a convenient location at Fire Station 2. The Jefferson County Planning Commission recently endorsed the project.

Some residents involved in the recall say they understand that the firefighters need training and that they would support the building’s use without live burning.

“Burning just doesn’t belong in that location,” said Winn. “We need burning done at an industrial site.”

“We’re objecting to burning. We’re not opposed to the training facility,” said resident Barry Pier, who also has been actively involved in the recall effort. 

Pier said the bulk of the firefighter training does not involve fire and smoke and could be done at the new facility.

However, Weege, board members and fire district officers say too much time is involved for firefighters to do live burn training at other facilities down the hill. 

Because the fire district appears determined to move forward with the facility and live burn training, Pier said that after an initial delay, he and others began collecting signatures for the recall.

“It’s the only recourse we have,” said Pier. “They’re sacrificing us for the firefighters. The problem can be solved by not burning.”

Pier also expressed concern that a future fire district board may decide to allow more live burning at Fire Station 2 than in the current plan. 

Once election administrator Micki Wadhams, a paralegal with the Collins, Cockrel and Cole law firm in Denver, certifies the signatures on the recall petitions, a date for the election can be set. 

Residents supporting the recall are in the process of seeking candidates to run in the election, which could take place in the form of mail-in ballots or at polling places in the coming months.

The fire district is responsible for the cost of the recall election, which could be more than $200,000 if mail-in ballots are sent out to 20,000 registered voters. An election at the polls is estimated to cost $70,000, but could result in lower participation than with mail-in ballots.

Board members will decide which direction to take, if the election becomes a reality.

“We didn’t want the recall,” said Pier.

Pier says he is hoping that the fire district board will decide to alter the plan for live burn training in Bergen Park before that point of no return is reached for the recall election.

Wadhams did not return phone calls for information regarding the election.

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