This is an open letter to the taxpayers of the Craig Rural Fire Protection District. The fire board would like to answer the need for Station 2.
Please let us start by separating the anti-tax sentiment growing across the entire country and the local attacks relative to the performance of the men and women that respond to your calls for help.
These part-time/volunteer firefighters provide a service to the district that cannot be replaced in our current operating budget. Their part-time status saves the taxpayers of the district a significant amount of money.
The need to shift to full-time firefighters will not be made by the fire chief or the fire board, but will be determined by the part-time/volunteer firefighters.
When the fire department cannot respond to calls for service safely with the required number of firefighters and equipment due to staffing shortages, full-time firefighters will be required.
The total percentage of the district’s budget that goes to compensate our firefighters is less than 10 percent. That is the reason why the district is able to have the state of-the-art equipment and facilities needed for the services it provides.
Let’s not attack these dedicated people and the outstanding service they provide, and direct your anger to the elected officials, the fire board. The fire board is made of two retired firefighters and three non-fire related community members and conducts monthly public meetings.
Feel free to attend.
Meeting times and places are posted at the fire station. Meetings are usually at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the Craig Fire Station, 419 Yampa Ave.
The need for the ‘proposed’ Station 2
In 2006, the fire department came to the community and asked for increased funding of 1.5 mills to pay for fire department operations and equipment for the future.
The fire department did conduct many public meetings and attended many community groups that allowed us to present our 10-year capital plan.
We showed the need to replace equipment and upgrade facilities in this plan. We said during these many meetings that “this was our best crystal ball projection into the future.”
The fire department has not strayed from this plan and is in fact ahead of schedule due to two important reasons.
First, aggressively applying for and receiving more than $940,000 in grant money. Second, sound fiscal budget planning and management.
This board planned for this surplus. The $1.5 million at year’s end is needed to fund the 10-year plan presented back in 2006.
We are not asking for more tax money. We are just working the plan as presented. No, the specific wording did not say Station 2, but it did say facility upgrades.
It was all in the plan presented. No conspiracy.
So why now a Station 2?
Our community has changed the past five years.
Look on the hill where The Memorial Hospital and Colorado Northwestern Community College are.
What’s been built and what’s proposed to be built is more than $100 million of valuation. No reasonable person can argue that this is where the new growth is going.
The mission of the fire department is to protect lives first and property second and the environment third.
Yes, Craig’s population has not changed much, but the property values we protect has. All that new growth has been to the West. We need to be in the center of that growth and have the facilities to provide services to that area.
Station 2 will not only provide services to the hospital and college, but also improve the level of service and training of our firefighters for the entire district.
The existing station is landlocked and too small to house all the equipment needed for the community response now and in the future.
The fire department has increased its level of service to include hazardous materials response, high angle rescue, confined space rescue, swift water rescue, ice rescue, medical assistance, and arson investigation to name a few.
All these services require many hours of training by those same part-time responders.
It is the responsibility of the fire board to provide sound fiscal controls with your money.
Again, Station 2 is being planned with no increased level of funding. It is also the responsibility of the fire board to provide the firefighters with the resources to do their job safely and efficiently.
It is the board’s job to plan for the future growth of the fire district. The board feels that exploring the feasibility of building Station 2 is needed at this time and for future district growth.
It amazes us how some people in this community criticize elected officials for no planning for the future and when the elected officials do plan for the future, then it’s not needed.
Feel free to participate in the actual work involved in the planning process, attend the monthly meetings, or better yet, run for a position on the board.
— Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board members are: president Byron Willems, secretary/treasurer Chris Nichols, Alan Webber, John Forgay and Tony C. Maneotis
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