Steamboat Springs The consolidation of the city of Steamboat Springs fire and ambulance department with the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District is expected to come up today when district representatives come before the City Council.
The two entities passed an agreement to share fire and ambulance services in early 2001, but decided against consolidation. But the question of consolidation is back.
Councilman Paul Strong said consolidation has been broached at the monthly oversight committee meetings and he expects it will come before the council Tuesday night.
"That is not something for the city to bring up," Strong said. "But (the district) has brought forward that discussion in the oversight committee."
Strong, the council's representative on the oversight committee, said one district encompassing the city and surrounding rural fire protection district has been suggested. But consolidation would be a long process that could require voter approval and possibly a city property tax.
In January 2002, the city and district began to share EMS and fire services. The city funded its portion through sales taxes and the fire district paid its portion through property taxes.
In November, the city asked voters to approve a fire tax that would have raised an additional $600,000 and provided the funding needed for the six additional staff members the city promised in the 2001 agreement.
But when the vote failed and sales tax revenue remained flat, the city said it was unable to boost its funding for six more full-time EMS technicians and firefighters.
Bob Kuusinen, president of the Rural Fire District, said it is impossible to predict how the meeting will go, but consolidation is up for discussion.
"Since the vote last November, it has continually come up," Kuusinen said.
One of the major issues is the city's inability to provide the additional staffing. Even with the failure of the fire tax, Kuusinen had hoped for at least three more staff members.
"We thought we would be further down the road than we are heading into 2003," Kuusinen said.
The district has a 5.6-mill levy to cover its fire and ambulance services and board members said they have the funds to provide the extra staffing.
A formula figures out the rural fire district's share of the fire and EMS bill using the number of calls and population. Right now, the district pays for 28 percent of operating costs and 33 percent of capital projects.
If the city's proposed 5-mill property tax had been approved, it intended to hire six more staff members. That would have doubled the existing staff.
The proposed tax would have brought in $1.9 million to the fire department; a $600,000 increase in what was budgeted for 2003. The tax failed by 253 votes with a final tally of 1,931 against the tax and 1,678 for it.
Having a staff of 12 full-time employees would allow the city and the 480 square miles of the surrounding area to have four EMS technicians and firefighters on duty 24 hours a day.