Steamboat Springs The city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District have entered into a non-binding agreement that would result in the city assuming responsibility for both emergency medical and fire suppression services by Jan. 1, 2002.
As a condition of that understanding, the district has agreed to go to its voters in the Nov. 7 election with two ballot questions. First, the voters in the district will be asked if they will approve of the city managing EMS and fire services, with an increase in the mill levy assessed for their property taxes. Second, the district voters will be asked to approve a bond issue to fund purchase of equipment and facilities. The bond amount and its duration would be based on a capital improvement plan, with cost-sharing agreed to by the district and the city.
Fire Protection District board member Bob Kuusinen said the timetable for placing the questions on the fall ballot is very tight. But he's optimistic the voters will accept the changes.
"We've already started the educational process and I think we're going to find the voters are going to approve the consolidation of fire and EMS," Kuusinen said.
The city and the fire protection district have been working for more than a year to reach a new agreement on services they provide each other. The city takes primary responsibility for fire suppression both in the city and outside it limits in the broader fire district. The district has in turn provided ambulance/EMT services both within its district boundaries and inside the city. The agreement that governs those shared responsibilities expired on Dec. 31, 1998, and the city and district had previously been unable to come to terms on how the growing costs of providing emergency services would be shared.
The city and the fire protection district have cooperated since 1982. The city funds its fire department with sales tax revenues. The fire district, which covers a 10-square-mile area outside the city limits, levies a property tax on residents.
County Commissioner Ben Beall told City Council Tuesday night he thinks the district will need to be able to tell its voters what kinds of equipment and facilities it would purchase with the proceeds of the bond issue, if it is to be successful.
"If we're going to go down this road together, we're going to have to be partners in this thing," Beall said.