Steamboat City Council addresses issue of governance

Task force to be formed to discuss fire, emergency services

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— Steamboat Springs City Council members gave an informal go-ahead Tuesday to forming a four-member task force to address how local fire and emergency services are managed.

Steam­boat Sp­rings Area Fire Pro­tection Dis­trict board of directors President Kathy Connell suggested forming the task force in her response to a recent consultant’s report about local fire and emergency services. Acting Public Safety Director Joel Rae and acting Deputy Fire Chief Mel Stewart also provided a response to the consultant’s report.

Connell said solving the governance issue is the first thing the city and district need to do.

“We just must get this done,” she said. “And we must take care of these professionals who put their lives at risk and go out at all hours of the night to save people who visit our community, as well as our locals.”

The district contracts fire and emergency services for the area that surrounds Steamboat. The city and district had been discussing the governance issue last year when the groups decided to hire a consultant to evaluate local fire and emergency services. A representative from the consultant presented the report Jan. 17.

Connell and city officials have said solving the governance issue would lead to more efficient fire and emergency services.

The task force idea enthusiastically was supported by members of the City Council. Several had said solving the governance issue was the most important of several fire-related issues the City Council previously identified as a priority for 2012.

“Let’s get cracking,” said City Council member Kevin Kaminski, who along with City Council President Bart Kounovsky will represent Steamboat as members of the task force.

Fire District board member Allan White will join Connell on the task force.

After the meeting, Connell said she would make calls Wednesday to arrange the first meeting but hoped it could take place next week.

Kounovsky said he hoped the city and district could work out the governance issue by the end of July.

After the reports, General Services Director Anne Small presented a salary survey comparing Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue employees’ pay with that of 11 other agencies and municipalities.

Small said that many of the positions evaluated were different from those in Steamboat but that the survey revealed the median salary for local firefighters/emergency medical technicians with basic certifications was $47,522, nearly 6.3 percent less than the median salary for the equivalent position at other agencies and municipalities. The disparity grew for higher-qualified firefighters.

Small is preparing a survey for all city departments, which is expected to be completed by May. At that time, firefighters will be included with the rest of city employees to create a pay plan that will be considered as part of the 2013 budget.

Also Tuesday, council members were scheduled to discuss privatization of ambulance services. After Connell, Rae and Stewart recommended against doing so in their responses to the consultant’s report, Kounovsky informally polled the five City Council members at the meeting, who agreed they didn’t need to discuss it.

Council members Kaminski and Cari Hermacinski left the meeting early.

City Council member Sonja Macys said she was “overjoyed.”

“That’s been a significant concern of mine ever since I heard about it,” she said.

Also Tuesday, the City Council:

■ Approved, 5-0, first readings of ordinances to implement a one-time $25 sales tax application and $25 special-activity fee. Council members will consider second readings in March.

■ Heard a sixth-month update about the city’s revised noise ordinance. Rae said of the 40 complaints, only three were downtown. He said that only one of those was significant and that it was mediated quickly.

The revised ordinance capped a year of discussion about how the city should address complaints from downtown residential property owners that nighttime noise coming from bars and entertainment venues is sometimes too loud. The ordinance increased the allowable noise level from 55 to 60 decibels during nighttime hours, which were defined as being between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“In my opinion, it’s working, and we don’t have a lot of problems to report,” Rae said.

■ Reviewed the next agenda. Kounovsky reminded council members that they meet next Tuesday but said the agenda should be light.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-87-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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