Steamboat Springs City Council to discuss future of fire and ambulance services Tuesday
April 11, 2014
Steamboat Springs — The future of this city’s fire and ambulance services will be up for review Tuesday night when city officials present the Steamboat Springs City Council with a seven-year strategic plan.
The plan discusses potential goals that include establishing a new fire station west of town, increasing staffing to meet a higher demand of emergency calls and moving administrators and other services to a central fire station downtown.
It also addresses other capital, staffing and equipment needs through 2020.
The plan ultimately could be the first step toward a revision of the 12-year-old intergovernmental agreement between the city and the Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District, which together serve a varying population of as many as 40,000 residents and visitors and share operating and capital costs.
With the cost of emergency services rising locally in recent years, the fire district and the City Council resolved to look into operating efficiencies and revisit an IGA that doesn’t address some future needs.
The discussions haven’t always been easy, however.
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Prior to 2012, some earlier discussions between the two entities about consolidating services stalled.
But today, officials on both sides are reporting significant progress.
Kathy Connell, president of the fire district board of directors, said Friday that the latest strategic plan is a big step forward for local emergency services, and she hopes it will lead to a better, more effective IGA.
"It’s exciting to get to this stage because what we’ve done is we’ve all agreed with staff that it’s best we continue our relationship (with the city) because it’s in the best interest of the whole community and it’s also more cost effective," Connell said. "We also recognize that how we fund this plan is going to be the nut to crack in the future. It is expensive to provide good fire and EMS services, but it’s something our community wants and needs and expects."
She said the latest strategic plan for fire and EMS services is a living document that could change based on the future demand for the services as well as available funding.
The draft being presented Tuesday projects that by 2020, Steamboat Fire Rescue could be responding to nearly 2,400 fire and EMS calls in a year and protecting more than a $1 billion worth of property.
"It’s based on assumptions," Connell said. "Those assumptions might change. We might grow more. We might grow less. It’s something to be reviewed every year to make sure we’re on target. The most exciting thing is the strategic plan is looking at the greater community and how to best serve all of our constituents."
One of the items not addressed in the current IGA between the city and the fire district is the prospect of building a new fire station west of town.
"How that’s going to be staffed and funded both in equipment and manpower, those are things we need to address," fire district board member Scott Havener said. "The more you have in an IGA, the easier it is."
The strategic plan the council will consider includes a goal of deciding in 2017 whether a new station is needed.
It also includes the possible goal of establishing a new central fire station in downtown Steamboat to house administration, fire prevention, training and personnel and equipment.
In an evaluation of the current downtown fire station on Yampa Street that is included in the plan, possible opportunities for the property include expanding office space and crew quarters into the police station upstairs if it is vacated.
It also lists the possibility of using funds from the sale of the station to help build a new fire facility.
The strategic plan also projects the possible costs of three separate scenarios through 2020 that include maintaining the status quo, adopting the strategic plan or having the city and the fire district split into two entities.
If they did separate from each other, the fire district estimates its costs would jump by several million dollars in the coming years, while the city’s would increase by a few hundred thousand dollars.
The presentation of the fire strategic plan headlines what should be an action-packed council meeting.
The council also is set to weigh in on the ongoing discussions between city staff and the county about the future of the regional building department.