Foothills fire briefs

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/22/22

Elk Creek Fire looking at impact fees; Extra paid leave for state employees who are first responders; Evergreen Fire looking at funding for additional equipment, staff

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Foothills fire briefs

Posted

Elk Creek Fire looking at impact fees

The Elk Creek Fire board is researching whether charging large developments impact fees might be a way to recoup costs the fire department spends to provide fire protection and emergency medical services.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s an interesting and creative idea to try to identify ways (to charge developers), so we’re at the capacity to serve the district and large developments,” said board member Kent Wagner. “It takes a bit to think about what we need to meet the needs of a development and to offset the impacts of that development as a whole.”

The board is considering impact fees rather than fire service expansion agreements like the one the board denied with the developer of the controversial Conifer Center, formerly called Conifer Commons. If the board had approved the agreement, the developer would have purchased the fire department a ladder truck and paid part of the salaries for three additional firefighters. In exchange, the fire department would have the equipment and staff to fight fires in three-story buildings planned in the proposed 188-home development, and department officials would write a letter to Jefferson County stating it could serve the proposed development.

Those voting to approve the agreement said it would improve fire service for all residents in the district. Those who voted against said they felt the agreement would give the appearance that the developer was trying to get preferential treatment. The board’s decision to deny the agreement is still in litigation.

Fire Chief Jacob Ware said some have suggested an impact fee for the controversial Shadow Mountain Bike Park, formerly known as Full Send Bike Ranch, to help pay for additional emergency medical costs if the proposal is approved by Jefferson County.

Ware said the district explored imposing impact fees several years ago, and it would cost about $35,000 for an initial study that would need to be updated every five years. Prior boards, he said, wondered if there were enough development impact fees to offset the fire district’s costs to set them up.

Board member Chuck Newby said he believed entering into individual service agreements with developers was a slippery slope, noting that writing them would take up a lot of resources and may not be enforceable.

“I would like to see us explore some alternatives such as impact fees,” Newby said. “I would like to get some legal advice for the board as to what the fire district could actually pursue in terms of impact fees or other remedies there are to assess the property.”

 

Extra paid leave for state employees who are first responders

Colorado’s state employees who serve as volunteer firefighters and first responders can now get up to five days of additional paid leave to deploy to incidents after Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on July 20.

“To ensure we continue to encourage Coloradans to engage in this critical volunteer work, it is important that employers, including the state of Colorado, support employees who volunteer and take time away from their employment to help with fire mitigation and suppression,” the governor’s executive order states. 

The order said the state needs to maximize its resources to combat wildfires to protect lives, homes and property.

“Volunteer firefighters and first responders provide critical support to suppress forest and grassland fires and assist people during fire emergencies,” the order states. “As many as 70% of Colorado’s firefighters are volunteers.”

 

Evergreen Fire looking at funding for additional equipment, staff

The Evergreen Fire/Rescue board has asked all departments to create a list of equipment they didn’t buy and positions they didn’t hire in 2021 and 2022, so the board can look at what still could be funded yet this year.

Board Treasurer Julie Ann Courim said the district had $2.26 million that it did not spend because of supply-chain issues and because positions weren’t filled, and all of that money was transferred to the account to pay to build a new Station 1.

“I feel like we should reassess and reprioritize what our needs are,” Courim told the board at its July 12 meeting. “What do we need to be funding to make sure we are able to provide our core services to our community? What other issues are there that are not being funded or should be funded because priorities have shifted?”

Courim said the district has the money to fund some projects this year.

“As a board and team, we have the ability to allocate where those funds should go,” she said. “We should leave that up to the chief, to the captains, to the various division heads to look at their priorities.”

The board hopes to discuss the district’s needs with staff at the next board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Evergreen Fire/Rescue Administration Building.

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