By the time you read this, you’ll probably have received your mail-in ballot for the EFPD board recall election. You have heard and read a lot about each side’s positions and arguments. So let’s focus on a different question: How did we get here?
It seems clear that the plans for a “burn building” weren’t understood by the voters when they approved the fire district’s mill levies. When the community realized what project was planned at EFR Station 2, the opposition grew rapidly and manifested itself in large numbers of citizens attending and speaking at the district’s board meetings, writing letters and e-mails, and expressing their disapproval through the media.
The board’s approach to deal with the growing opposition appeared to be following all protocols but pressing through with the project. Anyone who attended board meetings last fall walked away with the impression that the decisions had already been made, that the residents were given the time to speak as a formality, and that the board was lacking the appropriate consideration and respect for the people whom their organization serves.
After 26 years of conducting live burn training at a facility in the Denver metro area, it seemed more important to satisfy the demands from the volunteer firefighters for a more convenient location immediately, rather than finding a way to provide the firefighters with what they need in a way that is compatible with the community’s interests. The many opportunities for the board to exit the highway to disaster were all missed; the last missed opportunity (a proposal by resident Dan Murphy) was witnessed by the public attending the December 2012 board meeting. It was clear that this would trigger a recall election. The signed recall petitions were filed shortly afterward.
What followed was the ramp-up of both sides’ campaigns. A wild claim by the “No Recall” group about response times led to investigations of this topic. Because no supporting data could be found, the recall committee requested EFR’s incident data, produced the statistics, and revealed that the actual response times fall short of external standards as well as internal goals without any trend of improvement. Furthermore, there was no evidence found that these important metrics have ever been monitored by the district or shared with the community. What first appeared to be two separate issues soon became obvious to be one common theme: The current board does not follow its purpose of making balanced decisions that serve both the community and the fire department. The current board does not look at the community as its shareholders but solely as the provider of funds.
This lack of community representation, the failure of the board members to recognize the extent and the consequences of the disagreement with the community, and their inability to deal with the issue got us here. The current board members are qualified for the job but chose to follow a different agenda and displayed a troubling amount of disrespect to the community that they are supposed to serve.
Daniel Koller is a candidate for the board of the Evergreen Fire Protection District.