Steamboat fire issues back on table at City Council meeting
February 4, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council President Bart Kounovsky said he would issue a challenge Tuesday.
Kounovsky said he would urge council members and members of the rural Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District board of directors to resolve governance issues in the next six months.
The city and district have been discussing their relationship, specifically how best to provide services to Steamboat and surrounding areas.
"I would hope that by the end of June, we'd have it hammered out," Kounovsky said.
That discussion will continue at Tuesday's City Council meeting, where several fire-related issues will be discussed starting with presentations from Public Safety Director Joel Rae and district President Kathy Connell. Each will present responses to a consultant's report heard by City Council members last month.
A representative of International City/County Managers Association presented a report after evaluating local fire and emergency services.
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The report recommended the city and district reach an agreement to collaborate as one entity managed by the district that uses demand-based staffing and volunteer workers to cut costs. It also recommended that a district-managed entity eventually be paid by a city and district property tax.
City Council members weren't prepared to take any action on the report at the time but said they wanted to work with the district to come up with an amenable governance structure.
"I just feel like we are in a very strong position to have a real conversation with the fire district about what are the fire and emergency services the community needs," City Council member Sonja Macys said. "When I'm talking about community, I'm talking about the city of Steamboat Springs and broader county."
Connell said that's all her board of directors wants. She said her report would recommend that Kounovsky, another council member, herself and another district board member form a task force to address the governance issue.
"We've done a lot of work," Connell said. "We have a lot of information. Let's get going."
Rae said the report he and acting Deputy Fire Chief Mel Stewart will present addresses every bullet point outlined in the consultant's report, and he said they have the support of the district's firefighters and city management team.
"We continue to look for ways to provide the best possible services to the city and the district while continuing to look at efficiencies within the department."
The City Council also will hear other fire-related presentations Tuesday.
General Services Director Anne Small will present a report on fire department salaries. The city is updating a 2008 salary survey of 11 similar agencies and municipalities to develop a pay plan that could be considered during budgeting for 2013.
Small said the fire data will be presented separately because City Council requested that information at the Jan. 17 meeting. Small has said she expects the rest of the city departments' data to be completed as a single report in May.
She also will be available to answer questions about an emergency medical services privatization feasibility study. Former Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord presented the report in January, but City Council members said they wanted to review it before taking action.
Council members Kenny Reisman and Macys said privatizing ambulance services was something they were not interested in doing. Kounovsky said he didn't have enough information to make a decision. Connell and Rae said their reports wouldn't make that recommendation.
Reisman, who suggested "all things fire" as a priority this year for the City Council, said he was looking forward to the meeting. He said that the discussions haven't been without a few bumps but that it was important to discuss the issues in public.
"In the end, when we're done with these conversations, I think we'll be a stronger, healthier department, and our city will be the better for it," he said.
Also Tuesday, Rae and Planning Director Tyler Gibbs will update the noise ordinance City Council members approved July 19. It's the second of planned updates at three and six months from adoption.
The revised ordinance capped about 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.
At the three-month update in October, Rae said no citations had been issued since the new ordinance was adopted. Rae said that hasn't changed but that police have received 40 noise complaints since then. Only one, however, was downtown.
"All noise complaints were resolved without any violators being cited under the new noise ordinance, and in city staff's opinion, the ordinance is fine the way it is," Rae wrote in an email.
He added that the one downtown complaint was for loud music but quickly was resolved when the music was turned down.
■ 5 p.m. Liquor License Authority meeting
■ 5:05 p.m. Discussion in executive session about the possible purchase, acquisition and/or lease of interests in real property; community reports including a review of the noise ordinance, the city's response to the fire consultant report, the fire district's response to the fire consultant's report, a report on firefighters' salaries and a report on and response to privatization of ambulance services; and first readings of ordinances to implement a one-time $25 sales-tax application and $25 special-activity fee.
■ 7 p.m. Public comment
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com