Fire consultant fired

City, district unhappy with company; hope to resolve differences themselves

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— The city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District say they are on track to resolve their differences. But they won't come to a new agreement on the services they provide to each other with the help of their consultant.
City Manager Paul Hughes confirmed Wednesday that a $50,000 contract with Emergency Services Consulting Group has been terminated. Hughes said the city attorney has been in touch with the consulting firm about its fee, but nothing has been resolved.
Fire District Board President Jane McLeod said the district was not a signatory to the contract with Wilsonville, Ore.-based ESCG, but had agreed to split the cost with the city. She said the district and city both were dissatisfied with the consultants. The consultant was retained to help the two sides find common ground, but they agreed the work was proceeding too slowly and the analysis was not detailed enough.
"They were supposed to give us an analysis of where we are and where we needed to go," McLeod said. She felt the consultants failed to respond to the scope of work described in the original request for consulting proposals.
Hughes said he could not see much difference in the latest report from ESCG and one sent back by City Council and the District Board at the beginning of the year.
Joe Parrott of ESCG could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Hughes predicted the new agreement between the city and the district could be resolved within a couple of weeks.
"We aren't looking for a new consultant," Hughes said. "Both sides are optimistic about the outcome."
Hughes declined to say if a breakthrough in the negotiations had been achieved, but he said the district made a proposal and the city made a counter-proposal. He said the contract talks will continue in closed sessions until an agreement is reached.
McLeod said the fire district's mindset is to achieve a resolution. Asked about Hughes' prediction that the agreement would come within a matter of weeks, she replied: "I hope he's right. It's going to be a tough contract to iron out, but it's not impossible. We haven't started on the language of the agreement."
The two entities have been working for more than a year to reach a new agreement. The city takes primary responsibility for fire suppression both inside the city and outside, in the broader fire district. The district has, in turn, provided ambulance services for both itself and the city.
The agreement that governs those shared responsibilities expired on Dec. 31, 1998, and the city and district have been unable to come to terms on how the growing costs of providing emergency services will be shared.
The city and the fire protection district have worked together since 1982. The city funds its fire department with sales tax revenues. The fire district, which covers a 10-square mile area beyond Steamboat's city limits, is funded by a property tax.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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