The city and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District have put discussion of fire-services consolidation on the back burner.
City Councilwoman Nancy Kramer said the two groups were not ready to move forward with consolidating the city's fire and ambulance services with the fire protection district.
"I think it was pretty clear there wasn't a consensus and it was going to take a lot of work to answer the hard questions," Kramer said.
The decision was made at a Fire Oversight Committee meeting last month, and Kramer made the announcement to the City Council at a meeting this month.
Minutes from the Fire Oversight Committee meeting indicate that district board members thought the City Council was not fully committed to the concept of consolidating. One board member said even the district board was not unanimous in supporting the concept.
Don Taylor, the city finance director, also feared that consolidation creating a new structure could be less cost-effective from an administrative standpoint than it is now, when costs are spread through the city departments.
Kramer said the two entities also need to focus on housekeeping items.
"It is working well," Kramer said. "It is not the time for a major focus on putting some kind of consolidation program together."
The council met with the fire district board Feb. 8 to discuss the possibility of consolidating. At that time, council members said they were unanimous in their support to continue looking at consolidation. But they also were unanimous in not wanting to go back to the voters with a property tax proposal to fund the fire district so soon after similar proposals were defeated in 2002 and 2003.
The city's fire and ambulance service and the fire district operate under a joint agreement established in 2001. The city pays for about 70 percent of the operating costs, and the district pays 30 percent. The district covers its costs through a property tax, and the city covers its costs mainly through sales tax.
Under state statue, a special district can be funded only through a property tax.
In 2002 and again in 2003, the city proposed a property tax that would have been dedicated solely to funding fire and EMS services. The property tax would have freed money in the city's general fund that was being spent on the fire department. The tax proposals were defeated both times.
Fire District Board member Ben Beall said it might make sense to consolidate in the future and eliminate the problems that could arise with two financing structures and two elected boards.
"The district isn't unhappy with what is happening right now. Just from the standpoint of looking down the road, the city is different than we are, and problems could arise," Beall said.
The district and the city continue to work on joint ventures, such as a mapping project, buying new pieces of equipment together and looking to build a fire station in the west end of Steamboat.
"We are not stopping because we are not moving forward with consolidation right now," Beall said.
-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com