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Four fire board seats open in May 6 election

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By Vicky Gits

Four of the five seats on the board of the Evergreen Fire Protection District will be up for election on May 6.

Voters will be asked to choose two directors for terms of four years each and two directors for terms of two years each.

But if only four or fewer names are submitted for the elected positions, election law says the vote can be canceled.

Once the candidates are elected, the new board will take nominations for the officer positions at the first board meeting after the election, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 28.

Candidates for the open board positions need to fill out a self-nomination form and file it with the election official by 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 29. Forms are available at the district office. Parties must apply for either two- or four-year terms.

The board voted unanimously at a regular meeting Jan. 25 in favor of a walk-in election, with polling places at the fire district headquarters, 1802 Bergen Parkway, and the Evergreen Recreation Center on Olive Street.

The only board member not up for re-election is Jaine Hamilton, who was elected to a four-year term expiring in 2010. She was first elected to the board in 2002. Hamilton has a home in Evergreen but is living on the Western Slope on a new job assignment. She attended a board meeting in Evergreen on Friday and said she intends to keep her seat on the board for the time being.

Jeff deDisse and George Goldbach, who were elected to the board after Phil Shanley and David Klaus were unseated in a recall election Nov. 13, must run again if they want to continue to serve.

DeDisse was elected to replace Klaus, and Goldbach was elected to replace Shanley. Charles “Chick” Dykeman was appointed March 23, 2007, to replace board member Bob Wallace, who resigned in 2006.

The board decided to hold a polling-place election instead of a mail-in election after the last election using mail-in ballots proved to be time-consuming, expensive and plagued with problems. Due to a printer’s error, the ballots were delivered late, forcing the election deadline to be delayed one week.

On the bright side, the snafu resulted in a 50 percent discount from the outside election services provider, Premier Solutions. The recall-election expenses are estimated at $61,000, according to the minutes of the Dec. 14 board meeting.

“Mail ballots are very expensive. They can have a lot of problems, as you know,” said fire district attorney Paul Cockrel, who worked on the resolution authorizing the May election. There is less preliminary work, and most of the work is done on Election Day in a walk-in voting process, Cockrel said Jan. 25 at the regular board meeting.

On Election Day, polling places will be open at the fire district headquarters, 1802 Bergen Parkway, and at the Evergreen Recreation Center, 5300 S. Olive Road, adjacent to Evergreen High School.

Applications for mail-in ballots may be obtained by filing a request with the election official at 1802 Bergen Parkway, Evergreen, CO 80439, by April 29, if the ballot is to be mailed to the elector, or until the close of business the Friday immediately before the election, May 2, if the ballot will be picked up that the office.

Board votes to replace election official

The fire board voted 4-1 to appoint board member Jaine Hamilton to be the designated election official for the upcoming May 8 election, in place of Christina Griggs, even though Hamilton opposed the vote and said she intended to delegate her responsibilities to Griggs.

“If that seems weird, so be it. That’s what the board wanted to do,” said Chick Dykeman, board president.

George Goldbach, who was elected to replace Phil Shanley in the recall election, initiated the proposal to fill the election official’s job with someone other than Griggs.

“I have a rationale for my decision, which I think we should discuss in executive session,” Goldbach said. A few minutes later the board went into an executive session for about 30 minutes.

Griggs, who also serves as finance director, filled the position as designated election official during the November recall election.

In introducing the election resolution, fire district attorney Paul Cockrel said that since Griggs had the most recent experience, she seemed like the logical choice.

Fire Chief Garry DeJong said the recall election took an enormous amount of the finance director’s time but that he perceived it as an isolated situation.

“If that is a normal workload, that is frightening. But the recall was outrageous. I might be a little skewed as to how much I would lose from normal operating capabilitites.”

“(The walk-in election) won’t be nearly as time-consuming,” Cockrel said.

Friday’s meeting was held in the fire department auditorium for the first time on a trial basis. The next meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at district headquarters, 1802 Bergen Parkway. The pension board meets at 6:30 p.m.

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Board member protests professionals’ pay rate

Board member George Goldbach raised a few eyebrows at Friday’s meeting by suggesting that salaries in the fire department were out of control and needed to be reined in.

In particular, he cited the hourly wage rates for finance director Christina Griggs and human resource director Patti Duncan, who are paid $70 and $60 per hour, respectively.

Both Griggs and Duncan are hired on a part-time basis.

“I figure that $70 per hour works out to about $140,000 a year,” Goldbach said. “$60 per hour is about $124,000.” He said the pay levels weren’t consistent with the latest salary survey showing the going wage rate is $38 to $54 per hour for both positions.

He also objected to the $270,000 budget increase in total salaries from 2007 to 2008.

“I think that’s not necessary,” Goldbach said. “When do we make a stop to the increasing expenses? When do we slow it down?”

Goldbach requested the board spend some time studying the figures and said he planned on making a proposal at the next meeting.

The money for salaries has already been approved in the 2008 budget, making it questionable whether the salary levels can be adjusted after the fact. But some board members were willing to revisit the pay issue anyway.

“I think it’s worth studying,” Dykeman said.

Chief Garry DeJong confirmed that, as part-time employees, Duncan and Griggs do not receive benefits such as insurance, retirement, vacation or holidays, and federal and state taxes are withheld as usual.

Most of the increase in salaries was for a 3.5 percent cost-of-living increase that went into effect for all paid employees this year. Part of the increase was due to raising the salary levels of the communications staff to be comparable with the salary survey, DeJong said.

The fire department employee budget stands at 38 positions, 37 of which are filled. Human resources and finance director formerly were categorized as consultants.