To the Editor:
The Craig Fire Department will be asking us for an increase of approximately 2.4 mills, or $550,000 in addition to what it already collects, $420,000, in a special district election Tuesday, May 7 at the Craig Fire Station.
On Friday, March 22, a Craig Daily Press headline read, "The future of fire fighting." It ran with a story and a chart comparing Craig to other cities, along with the following statements: Craig will experience a 2-percent growth each year; planning on building a training center; need to replace equipment and trucks; plans to staff the fire department with full-time firefighters. They left out that they plan to build a second fire station, and replace the command vehicle every 10 years.
On April 3, the Fire Department mailed out a notice about the election to increase taxes by increasing the mill levy by 2.4 mills to generate $550,000 additional funds for the fire district.
After careful evaluation of the facts, I find it very difficult to support their request to raise the mill levy.
I have a very high regard for the firemen on the Craig Fire Department. I know the majority of them personally. They are good at what they do and are very professional. I respect the fact that they put their life on the line every time they respond to a fire.
However, they don't tell you exactly what their wish list is. They don't tell you how big the training center will be, they fail to tell you that the cost to the taxpayer will be $2.25 million and not $1.5 million like they said in the paper. They don't tell you that it will cost $30,000 for maintenance plus insurance and utilities. They don't tell you that as a taxpayer you will inherit this debt for life yes, for life.
They don't tell you that they could send firemen to be trained at another facility for $30,000 per year, which will take them 75 years to spend the $2.25 million which would be the cost to build the training center. They don't tell you that the Moffat County commissioners refused to endorse their mill levy increase. They don't tell you that the Energy Impact Funds (state funds) refused to give them money because there is a regional training facility in Hayden.
They don't tell you that Rifle has a new training facility (four-story building with a burn room). Aspen, Vail and the surrounding towns come to Rifle to train at their facility. Their facility is used on the average of 3 times a month. The cost of building the training tower was approximately $117,000.
Why build a monument? If you think you need a training center, why can't you build one like Rifle? How come Steamboat, Vail, Meeker or Aspen don't have a training center like the one you want to build for $2.25 million? Quite frankly, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we the people give you the green light. The little time the fire department has given the taxpayer with very little or no information, is not enough time for the people to make a decision. I think we should vote NO on the proposed request for a mill levy increase.
The fire department stated that our community would see a 2 percent growth each year. I have been in this valley since 1965 and I have seen only one growth period for a short time during the oil shale exploration and coal mining. After that, look at what happened NO GROWTH.
Of course, the fire department hired a consultant to guide them with the passage of the mill levy increase, just like The Memorial Hospital paid a consulting firm $129,000 a year to show them how to raise money for them. How clever, not even 2 months advance notice to the public before we vote on it. As you can see, they don't give you enough time to learn about the devil in the details. That's not fair on short notice to surprise us with unjustifiable expense, mainly a training center $2.25 to $2.5 million, Fire Station No. 2 $750,000 to $900,000, full-time employees $390,000, trucks and equipment $2.2 million. Most of the firemen I talked to never admit whether they need to replace, but keep saying that is only a projection. If you need a pump, replace it. You don't have to replace the whole truck. Some of the fire trucks don't even have 20,000 miles on them. They led me to believe they are not really sure if they need all that's on their wish list or not.
To the fire department, please be reasonable and fair, study the issue, share it in detail with the taxpayers. Communicate with us and make us understand what you want. Then let's make a decision together. As I state at your meeting, you are rushing into this project and nobody knows anything about it but you. You are asking the taxpayer to double your revenue without giving them any concrete information. I don't think that you are sure if you need the mill levy increase or not. The ballot does not tell us much of anything except the increase of $550,000. We should not mislead each other. We need to know all the facts and details so we can make sound judgement whether to commit ourselves for that kind of liability forever or not. The taxpayer has the right to know. VOTE NO on Tuesday, May 7.