Changes ahead for Maybell Fire

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Residents of Maybell and the surrounding area who are 18 years and older and are willing to participate in meetings and activities with the Volunteer Fire Department, are considered members, and therefore eligible to vote on Fire Department issues, according to Maybell VFD by-laws.

An upcoming vote could be especially important with the decision now facing the community.

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At a special Moffat County Commissioners meeting held in Maybell on Tuesday evening, residents were asked to decide if the Fire Department should become an entity of the county or become an independent organization free of the county.

Currently, the Maybell VFD falls somewhere in between the two.

"The last thing we want to do is come down here and decide things for you," commissioner Tom Gray told a crowd of about 30 gathered in the town's community center. "We want you to decide which way to go."

The decision involves a number of choices, one being the VFD handling its own finances, including billing for contracted fires with the Bureau of Land Management or on private land.

If residents choose to become independent, the VFD will keep its vehicles registered to the department, dispatch independently for fires and they will elect their own board of directors.

If residents choose aligning the VFD with the county, fire vehicles will be re-titled in Moffat County's name, commissioners will authorize dispatching vehicles and crews to fires, and commissioners will appoint the members of the VFD board of directors.

In both scenarios, the VFD continues receiving county money for funding and insurance, as well as use of the county garage for fire trucks.

The choices drew varied responses from the residents of Maybell.

"I think the feeling of the board at this time is to go independent," Maybell Fire Chief Dave O'Conor said. "When we started we were very independent."

Maybell Gazette publisher Rose White wanted people to remember the purpose behind creating the department.

"Maybell made a Fire Department to fight fires in Maybell, not to go chasing federal dollars fighting fires on BLM land," she said.

One issue hanging over the VFD, regardless of the decision, is training for its members.

Sheriff Tim Jantz informed the members of the audience that 80 hours of training is required each year to qualify for fighting fires on BLM land, and insurance companies are going to require certain minimum training standards be met before coverage is approved.

Commissioners distributed a list of the effects of each decision on the VFD.

"We're opening this up to discussion in Maybell," commissioner Tom Mathers said. "There is a fire department here, but it's not up to where it needs to be."

Commissioner Tom Gray echoed the need for improvements, either with county support or as an independent organization.

"Anything run by the county has to operate, organize and report to the board of commissioners," he said. "We're offering an option, not pushing one way or another."

Community members pointed out another issue to be considered. What becomes of the VFD savings account, built up throughout the years by bake sales, raffles, dances, donations and county contributions to the department?

Interested Maybell residents will be asked to study the options and determine the advantages and disadvantages of each, and vote on a ballot that will change the department no matter what the decision.

The Maybell Gazette's next issue will post a comparison sheet distributed by commissioners at the Tuesday meeting.

The vote is scheduled to take place during the next board meeting of the VFD, at 7 p.m. on June 13.

The location has been changed from the firehouse to the Maybell Community Center to accommodate the expected crowd.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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