Editorial: Fire district violated public trust | CraigDailyPress.com

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Editorial: Fire district violated public trust

Editorial board members:

• Al Cashion

— Community representative

• Alisa Corey

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Bridget Manley

— Newspaper representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

• Dave Pike

— Community representative

Our View

Whether Craig needs a new firefighter training facility is debatable. It’s clear, though, the Craig Rural Fire Protection District’s proposal for a facility flies in the face of the clear message Moffat County voters sent in past elections.

Moffat County voters sent a clear message to the Craig Rural Fire Protection District in 2002.

When local residents went to vote that year on a proposed mill levy increase for the district, which would have paid for a fire training facility, they shot it down, 849 to 270.

The answer to whether Craig needed a new training facility was a resounding "no."

Now, fire district officials have resurrected the proposal, only this time they're sidestepping voters altogether.

The fire district intends to build its training facility, using money from a mill levy increase voters approved in 2006.

Voters OK'd that funding boost because they believed the training facility proposal was off the table.

In fact, Chris Nichols, then Craig Fire/Rescue chief and current fire district board secretary/treasurer, told attendees at a forum in 2006 that the mill levy increase would not include a training center, the Craig Daily Press reported in an article published October 23, 2006.

The fire district board shouldn't be surprised residents aren't lining up to back this project. It's a direct affront to voters' wishes, and it smacks of deceit.

Don't get the wrong message — the editorial board is not attacking the firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect lives and property. As demonstrated by devastating fires earlier this year in Craig, Craig/Fire Rescue does a superb job when it matters most.

Rather, the editorial board questions the intentions of the fire district board. Was it the board's design all along just to give voters lip service and build a training facility whether the public approved it or not?

The editorial board is split on whether Craig needs this kind of facility in the first place.

Some believe it's not a necessity, but it's certainly better than what firefighters have now.

Others argue Craig/Fire Rescue does just fine without a training tower and live fire simulator.

That argument is beside the point, though. The real issue here is a matter of violated public trust.

Fire district board members shouldn't have preemptively decided to use taxpayer dollars for a project voters expressly voted against.

Instead, they should have put it on the ballot. They should have made their case to the community then let the voters have the final say.

The editorial board doesn't expect the fire district to seek voter approval for every new piece of equipment it purchases, but past history makes the training facility a special case, and besides, a training facility isn't just a new piece of equipment.

When residents voted down the project, the fire district had a responsibility and an obligation to respect the public's wishes, not circumvent them.

Fire district board members would do well to think about the consequences their run around game will have down the road, when they again need public help.

Violate the public's trust now, as it appears they're going to do regardless of the majority's opinion, and risk paying the cost later.

Voters in small communities have long memories, and they'd be more than justified rejecting future proposals given the district's deceit.

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