Photo by John F. Russell
Lieutenant Michael Arce and firefighter Scott Hetrick can be seen communicating with dispatch through the windshield of a fire engine outside of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue's mountain station. A consultant will address the Steamboat Springs City Council about emergency services operations.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
- Tuesday, January 3, 2012, 5 p.m.
- Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
5 p.m. Presentation of Outstanding Facility Award to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs; presentation of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. 10-year master plan; fire and emergency services presentation from Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth; International City/County Management Association fire report; discussion of privatizing fire and ambulance services; consideration of appointing Lindroth and Steamboat Springs Police Dept. Capt. Joel Rae as city representatives to Routt County Communications Advisory Board in 2012; resolution to change the name of a city street; resolution to acknowledge appointments to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and Historic Preservation Commission; second reading of an ordinance to approve a hangar lease to Civil Air Patrol-Steamboat Springs Composite Squadron at the Steamboat Springs Airport; and a second reading of an ordinance to amend the city’s municipal code to include brewery and brewpub uses and update child care definitions to comply with state law.
A discussion of Steamboat Springs’ fire and emergency services will resume Tuesday with a presentation from a consultant the city hired this year to evaluate them.
A representative from the International City/County Management Association will present to the City Council an analysis of Steamboat’s fire and emergency services operations. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Centennial Hall.
The presentation is part of a larger discussion about Steamboat’s fire services, which have been identified as a priority to address this year by the council.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth also will give a presentation about local services, including a separate evaluation that he prepared. And City Council will discuss whether to privatize the city’s fire and ambulance services.
City Council member Kenny Reisman suggested that “all things fire” be considered a priority for the seven-member group. Reisman said he thought fire-related issues were things the council could “sink its teeth into during a very public forum.”
“I just think the most valuable piece is to have these conversations in public, hear from the community to see what their desires are with fire and emergency services,” he said. “That alone, I think, will provide a huge benefit to the city.”
The city previously discussed with the rural Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District whether to consolidate the two services into a single property-tax supported fire district. If that direction was approved and voters supported a new tax, the single district would serve the city and surrounding areas without dollars from the city’s general fund.
But after the rural district decided not to ask residents to consider a tax increase to fund it, other alternatives were discussed.
Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said one such alternative is turning over operation of fire services to the rural district, with the city providing funding for all services provided within city limits. But she said things became confusing and costs started to escalate.
Hinsvark said costs have continued to rise in the decade since Steamboat’s fire department shifted from volunteer to paid professional.
“None of the efforts we were doing were going to control costs, which are important for us right now with the economy,” Hinsvark said.
So the city hired the consultant.
The report analyzed aspects of fire and emergency services, including administration and staffing; long-term planning and capital purchases and improvements; goals; financial performance; facilities and equipment; programs; training; relationships with nearby jurisdictions; and service calls.
The report indicates the city could save $252,000 by implementing several recommendations. They include: additional possible savings from privatization or reduced staffing levels and different shift schedules; developing a strategic plan between the city and rural district after the relationship is modified; managing overtime costs; conducting fire inspections in existing buildings; conducting public education programs; providing Automatic External Defibrillators in the community and in police cars; using part-time firefighters; and increasing funding from property taxes while keeping city funding levels the same.
Lindroth said the idea of consolidating the city and rural district into a property tax-supported district could better serve local residents through efficiency. He said Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue had 1,771 calls in 2010 and had nearly 2,000 in 2011.
About 20 percent of all call volume involves simultaneous calls, which can be problematic for the department, Lindroth said. He said the department can handle two minor emergencies or a moderate emergency at a time, but more than that would require calling off-duty firefighters.
Lindroth said he hopes some of the issues can begin to be addressed Tuesday.
“I think these are going to be preliminary opening discussions and you’ll have more discussions in the future,” he said. “I think this is the opening discussion about the fire service, which I think needs to occur.”
Hinsvark and Reisman said while there are many fire-related issues the city needs to address, there’s no reason those can’t start getting solved this year. Hinsvark said that could start with the existing agreement between the city and rural fire protection district.
“We need to back up to make sure our house is in total order, that we’re providing the service we need to and to the district, and go from there,” she said.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com