Basalt master plan could create need for new fire truck
BASALT Basalt’s fire department is not equipped to fight fires in the new type of buildings being encouraged by the town’s master plan, according to officials. The Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District said it needs a special fire engine to protect tall buildings that are set farther back from the streets than what’s traditionally been constructed. That special fire engine – a 100-foot ladder truck – will cost about $1 million.The Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District’s board of directors said in a July 27 letter that the town government and developers of new buildings will have to pay for the new fire engine. The district won’t ask its taxpayers to fund the new truck.”The Board wishes to put the community on notice that if this is adopted, the Basalt Fire Department does not have the capability to properly combat a major incident without upgrading our equipment,” the letter said.The master plan makes pedestrian-friendly design a priority in Basalt’s urban centers. Buildings will be set back farther from streets and heights may be higher in some cases. New buildings of that type would render the fire department’s 75-foot ladder truck “ineffective,” said the letter to the Basalt Town Council and planning commission.Bob Guion, a member of the fire district’s board of directors, said the district isn’t being confrontational. The directors don’t oppose the master plan, but they wanted to voice its concerns. The district wasn’t consulted about the proposed master plan until a few days ago, so its concerns came late in the process.Both the council and planning commission are in the process of reviewing a proposed update to the town’s 1999 master plan. It is anticipated a new plan will be adopted by the end of August. It will dictate land-use patterns for five to 10 years, everything from the amount of setback from a street for individual buildings to how large the town wants to grow.Guion said fire district officials believe they will require a 100-foot ladder truck to protect the type of buildings promoted by the master plan. The district has only one fire engine that is a ladder truck, since they are rarely needed. The 75-foot truck was purchased in 1997. The board budgeted to keep that truck in service for 25 years, so its got 15 years remaining.A new, larger ladder truck would cost about $800,000 and more than $1 million when properly equipped, Guion said. That is an “unanticipated financial burden,” he said.The fire district got a bond issue passed earlier this decade that raised property taxes, in part, for purchases of new equipment. Guion said he believes the board planned well for the future, taking into account Basalt’s population growth. But the promotion of a different type of building that requires a different fire engine wasn’t anticipated, he said.The fire district board doesn’t want to go to its taxpayers for funding for the bigger ladder truck. The new engine would be needed only in Basalt, he noted, and half the district’s taxpayers live outside of the town. A bond issue would be a tough sell, Guion said.Basalt taxpayers pay to provide service to outlying areas of the district, like Missouri Heights, but Guion noted that brush trucks needed to serve those areas cost $75,000 rather than $1 million for a ladder truck.He stressed that the fire district isn’t opposed to the master plan. It simply wants to discuss the ramifications with town officials and come up with a plan to buy a new engine – without approaching fire district taxpayers. An impact fee on new development might be part of the solution.”The Board wants to put the Town and potential developers on notice that the cost of the upgrading of equipment will be borne by the Town/developers, not the citizenry of the District at large,” the letter said.The fire district’s board asked the town to delay adoption of the master plan to allow greater discussion of emergency preparedness and life safety issues. Town officials said they will discuss the issue with the fire district before adopting the master plan later this month.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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