Vote ‘yes’ on the fire district’s proposed mill levy increase | CraigDailyPress.com
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Vote ‘yes’ on the fire district’s proposed mill levy increase

Editors ‘s note: The Craig Daily Press usually does not print Letters to the Editor on Monday. However, because of the timeliness of the mill levy vote, the Craig Daily Press makes this exception.

Vote ‘yes’ on the fire district’s proposed mill levy increase

To the Editor:

After reading Saed Tayyara’s letter: “The public has the right to know about proposed mill levy increase,” I felt compelled to write this letter to state the entire story!

The Craig Rural Fire Protection District put together a 15-year projection of operating costs. This written plan is their projection of capital, operations, personnel and maintenance costs. It’s hard to project 15 years into the future but the district took a stab at it.

The plan projects when certain trucks and equipment will need to be replaced. When to add personnel to replace the volunteers, which will come when the commitment of time is too burdensome to volunteer any more. It projects when Craig would grow to need a second fire station to meet response times, and it projects the costs to construct a complete training center, of which the burn building that Saed mentions in his letter is just one small piece of this facility. The District feels that a training center is needed to properly train your firefighters to meet the needs of this community.

This entire plan was presented at several public meetings and is open for review. Also, questions were answered at the presentations. Maybe Saed didn’t like the answers or didn’t like the fact that there were answers for his questions. That’s why he felt there were more questions than answers.

The training center seems to be a large portion of Saed’s concern.

I wish that Saed would had invested 1/10th of the time to get the facts straight, that your firefighters invest in their own training, before criticizing and telling the District they don’t need to build a monument. Does Saed really know the complexity of all the federal and state rules and regulations that fire departments have to comply with? If so, he would see that this training center would benefit the future of the district through better and complete training.

His letter states that for $30,000, the district could send firefighters out of town for training. Does Saed know that the bulk of the training firefighters do is required to be a member of the department? Do you realize that members of the fire department usually have to take their own vacation time from their real jobs and time away from their families to meet their required training hours?

Craig currently does not have any full-time paid firefighters. The time the volunteers give this community now is at a breaking point. Federal and state regulations keep changing; more time is required now than ever before. Just how much can we expect the volunteers to give? When the volunteers are gone, then come the real costs to the district full-time employees. To replace the volunteers just for day shift coverage, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., would cost the district more than $250,000 in salaries and benefits each year. The harder we make it for the volunteers to achieve their training hours, the faster the personnel costs are triggered into the district’s expenses.

As you can see, the salaries and benefits of full-time firefighters will dwarf the total cost of constructing this proposed training center. The lease-purchase will be paid off in 15 years, not for life as Saed wrote. Let’s give the real facts!

I will say that Saed was correct on one issue. The district did submit a grant proposal to the Energy Impact Panel. There were three reasons the panel turned down the request, not one. Hayden does have a burn building that Energy Impact monies funded. The two other and larger reasons were: first, because the district has one of the lowest mill levies in the entire state. They said the district first needed to raise its mill levy and then come and apply again. Second, the district has no long-term debt. Imagine that, our community gets penalized because the board of directors of the district has kept taxes low and lived within a budget. That gives you an indication of the politics involved in getting Energy Impact Money.

Rifle, Colo., did build one small part of the district’s proposed training center. Just the live fire burn building. I’m not sure if the cost he quoted is correct, but let’s compare apples to apples, not oranges, just to make a point. The district’s proposed center would teach all aspects of the services we provide the community, which are, much more than just fighting fires.

Now, let’s talk about projected equipment replacement. Equipment does eventually wear out. Saed makes it sound like it’s never repaired. There comes a time when the equipment is no longer reliable for use in an emergency situation. The district today has trucks that are 32 years old and another, which is 27 years old. Mileage alone does not determine if a truck is to be replaced. Fire trucks can run extremely hard for many hours without putting one mile on the odometer. I would never want to hear that the district couldn’t respond to a fire because the truck would not start or broke down on the way. Let the people that have to use the equipment and in fact, their very lives depend on that equipment, make the decisions on when it’s time to replace it. It’s easy to stand back and take shots at any plan.

What does the increase that the district is asking for really cost you? $2.2 million sounds like a lot and in fact really is a lot of money. To put this in perspective, the average homeowner in the district will pay an additional $2.50 per month in total for the mill levy increase. That’s $30 per year. The training center will cost you 35 cents of that amount monthly or $4.20 per year. I paid $33.71 last year for emergency services and fire protection . I’m willing to pay that meager amount to have the best-trained and equipped fire department there when I need them.

The fire district is telling the community that they need this money to keep the same level of service that they currently provide the taxpayers. In fact, I want the district to be able to grow with technology to provide even better protection. It takes money that’s well spent. You probably don’t know what happens when you call 911. All you really care about is getting help.

Support the proposed mill levy increase. Vote YES Tuesday at the Fire Station.

Chris Nichols

Assistant Fire Chief

Craig


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