West Routt Fire Protection District to go back to voters for tax increase

— The West Routt Fire Protection District wants voters to reconsider chipping in more money each year to help fund emergency services, and the issue appears destined to be placed on November’s ballot.

The fire district last asked voters the tax-increase question in November 2011, when it wanted property owners to about double their annual contributions. If the tax increase had passed, property owners with a house having $200,000 of assessed value would have paid about $100 each year.

Prior to the 2011 ballot question, the fire district had not asked voters for additional tax dollars in 31 years. District officials said the increase was necessary to address staffing and equipment needs and to make the district’s funding comparable to other rural fire protection districts.

If voters approved the increase in 2011, the district’s revenues would have doubled to about $1 million annually. The first priority for the district would have been to expand the fire station so it could house a ladder truck. The district’s next priority would have been to purchase a $1 million ladder truck.

Sixty percent of residents within the 200-square-mile district cast ballots against the tax increase proposed by Referendum 5A. The district includes Hayden, the Hayden Station power plant and Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Ross Fralick, president of the fire district’s board, said they are taking a different approach this time when it comes to asking property owners to pay more.

“We learned a lot last time,” said Fralick, who added that he thinks the vote failed for numerous reasons.

Earlier this week, a meeting was held to recruit members of the public to sit on an advisory board. Fralick said about 20 people came to the meeting, which he considered a good turnout. About a dozen people offered to sit on the advisory board.

“I’m thrilled with the response and thrilled with people saying they want to help,” Fralick said.

He said the advisory board would meet three to five times to discuss fire district needs and advise the fire board about what the district should ask voters.

“They may change our minds quite differently,” Fralick said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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