Fire board reverses direction on chief job

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— The newly elected West Routt Fire Board has turned Fire Chief Bryan Rickman's job future around.

The five-person board, which includes four new members, has decided to extend Rickman's contract through January 2001 and increase his pension. Rickman had been working as chief on a month-to-month basis while the former board worked on a description for a medical services job it planned to move Rickman into. That board had decided in an executive session to eliminate the paid fire chief position.

"The meeting went very well," newly elected board member Ed Hockin said. "Getting everybody oriented takes some time, but hopefully things will only continue to get better and we'll keep things on the right track."

The board spent the first hour of the meeting in executive session, apparently getting to know each other and learn more about the board, although Hockin had no comment as to why that had to happen behind closed doors.

"They just wanted to convene and find out what each position was about, and to discuss who would be comfortable in what positions," said Rickman, who attended the meeting. "This was the first many of them had met each other I think they just needed to be introduced and make themselves comfortable."

After coming out of the executive session, the board elected its officers and took the two key votes regarding Rickman.

Prior to the executive session, Patty Bruchez, the only resident present to offer a public comment, asked to board to carefully consider any changes it makes to job descriptions.

"As you all think about changing job descriptions, I just ask that you consider what there would be to gain by whatever decisions you make what might be compromised, and what efficiencies might be lost if positions are changed," she said.

Board members agreed that they would give the matter serious consideration.

After the executive session, the board voted to extend Rickman's employment until Jan. 1, 2001.

"As far as I know, it was a unanimous decision. Until now, I've been working on a month-to-month basis. So, of course, I was very pleased with the vote," Rickman said.

Rickman was generally pleased with all of the board's decisions and with the direction it seems to be taking, he said.

"They also voted to increase my pension. This doesn't really affect the district in any way, but it does affect me tremendously. I was pleased with that step," he said.

The pension increase was initiated by the Colorado Fire and Police Pension Association as a way to handle a statewide over-funding of retirement accounts. The vote, taken by fire boards across the state, was to give qualified people, statewide, the opportunity to receive the surplus of funds by giving them more money in their pensions.

"I think it's a great idea," Hockin said. The exact dollar increase it will provide for Rickman has not been determined yet.

"They were somewhat cautious about everything they did at the meeting. We were trying to get rid of two vehicles, for example, and they wanted to make sure we got as much as possible out of them. It would've been easy to take a smaller amount of money, but they decided to look for more options."

The board elected its one veteran member, Jim Denker, as president. Ed Hockin was elected as vice president, Susan DeBowes as secretary-treasurer and Ross Fralick was elected to the Colorado Fire and Police Pension Association.

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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