Voters affirm rural fire protection with the city

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— Voters in the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District approved a pair of referenda Tuesday night, effectively voting to continue their marriage with the city of Steamboat Springs.

The vote means the fire trucks will still roll out of the downtown station in January when a chimney fire is reported somewhere in the rural area surrounding Steamboat Springs.

Referendum 5A authorized the district board to raise property taxes and Referendum 5B authorizes the district to use the proceeds to bond for a new fire station and purchase equipment, among other things.

The vote in favor of 5A was 1,219 to 636, a near two-to-one margin. Referendum 5B prevailed 1,114 to 699. About 3,000 voters, either living in the district, or living elsewhere in Colorado and owning property in the district, were eligible to vote.

City Councilman Paul Strong, who has worked closely on the new agreement, said the outcome of the election was good news for residents of the city as well as for those in the district.

"It's going to mean much better fire protection for the city as well as the district," Strong said Tuesday night. "It will provide full-time fire staff resulting in a shorter response time."

Strong predicted the full-time firefighters could be on duty by 2002.

The city is essentially the hole in the donut described by the district boundaries. The two political entities have a longstanding agreement that calls for the city fire department to respond to fire alarms in the district, and the ambulance and emergency medical service run by the district, to respond to calls within the city limits. The arrangement has avoided costly duplications of services, but the fiscal pressures created by growing communities have made the old financial arrangement undesirable to the city.

The city has said if the two referenda had not passed, it would cease responding to fire calls in the district in January 2001.

Fire district board President Jane McLeod said that had the two referenda not passed, the board would have needed to meet promptly to reassess the entire situation.

No clear contingency plan for providing fire protection to the district beyond 2000 existed going into the election.

The passage of the two referenda cements a new agreement between the district and the city that will allow them to continue sharing the cost of providing fire suppression and emergency medical services in both political jurisdictions.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210

or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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