Glenwood Springs to take part in regional fire services study
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A split City Council has agreed to join in a $45,000 feasibility study looking at consolidating some fire and emergency medical services in the area between Glenwood Springs and Rifle.
The governing boards of the Glenwood Springs Rural, Burning Mountains and Rifle fire protection districts asked the city to participate in the study, which is aimed at determining if sharing equipment and consolidating some services could result in better efficiency and less cost.
The Glenwood council voted 4-3 at its Feb. 3 meeting to commit $7,500 toward the study. The various fire agencies have been working with a firm called Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) to prepare the study.
“I believe this will be money well spent to get an effective, up-to-date management audit,” said councilman Russ Arensman, who was joined by council members David Sturges, Matt Steckler and Shelley Kaup in supporting the study.
“It’s a way to see if there are some things we can do together, like sharing in training or equipment costs,” he said.
Mayor Bruce Christensen and councilors Stephen Bershenyi and Leo McKinney were opposed.
Christensen said he was concerned about a possible “pre-determined” outcome from the study to consolidate services, or possibly even merge the three service areas under a new regional fire authority.
“I’m worried that we’re giving away the ability to control our own future,” Christensen said.
He agreed with Councilor Bershenyi that if Glenwood Springs should consider sharing services with any other entity, the Carbondale fire district may make more sense.
“I agree in principle that this can provide us with some good information,” Bershenyi said. “But we need to look in the other direction. The issues we’re going to face on this end of the county are very different than what they’re facing on the other end of the county.”
The Carbondale and Basalt fire protection districts have been in similar discussions to consider shared services, or possibly even consolidating the two districts.
Burning Mountains is a special property tax-funded fire district serving the New Castle and Silt areas. The Rifle district operates in a similar manner serving Rifle city limits and the surrounding area.
In contrast, fire protection and EMS coverage in the Glenwood Springs area is shared between the city’s fire department and the rural fire district.
Administration between the two entities is common, but funding for the services is split. The Glenwood Springs Fire Department is paid for with a dedicated portion of the city’s general fund, while the rural district has a property tax mill levy.
The rural district also has its own elected board, while City Council is the governing body on matters related to the city fire department.
Fire chiefs from the three service areas have been in discussions for several months about ways to consolidate operations and save taxpayer dollars where feasible.
Last fall, chiefs Mike Morgan from Rifle, Brit McLin from Burning Mountains and Mike Piper from Glenwood Springs asked their respective governing boards to appoint members to a steering committee to do the study.
Council members Arensman, Sturges and Kaup, along with Glenwood City Manager Jeff Hecksel, attended a Jan. 10 presentation in Rifle by ESCI. The firm will do an independent study, instead of the previously proposed internal study.
“It is important to point out that the consultant indicated that joint fire and EMS services does not necessarily mean consolidation,” Hecksel stated in a memo to the City Council before the Feb. 3 decision.
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