Fire Protection District election Tuesday | SteamboatToday.com

Fire Protection District election Tuesday

Susan Cunningham

Voters in the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District on Tuesday will decide the outcome of what has been called an “unusual” election.

The election is unusual because nine people are running for three seats, a level of interest that has been unheard of the past twenty years.

“I have done special district administration for many, many years, and usually you are begging people to fill these positions,” said Cindy Maddox, district administrator and designated election official. “It’s very unusual.”

In 1998 — the only other contest in the past two decades — about 100 people voted, Maddox said. Split that number of votes nine ways, and one vote becomes especially important.

Board members are elected at large. Two incumbents are running for the board: Ben Beall and Steve Hilley. Because of term limits, Jane McLeod will not be running for the third seat.

The seven other candidates are James Stegmaier, Brian Len, Mary Duran, Gary Wilson, Kristina Dodd, Douglas Scherar and Joe McNasby.

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District President Bob Kuusinen and board member Thom McMahon are not up for election this year.

The board formed after this election will have important duties, Kuusinen said, such as examining long-term funding.

The district, which covers about 640 square miles surrounding the city of Steamboat Springs, signed an intergovernmental agreement with the city in 2000 to share fire and emergency medical services.

Through that contract, the district contributes 27.5 percent of operation costs and one-third of capital purchase costs through its 4.6-mill levy, or property tax, Maddox said. The city funds the remaining portion through sales tax.

Low revenue years and two failed property-tax proposals have left the city unable to fund the 12 full-time firefighters and EMS personnel that were agreed to in 2000.

One solution to steady funding is for the city and district to consolidate, which would allow the two to be on equal financial footing with one property tax, Kuusinen said.

“We’ve always felt it didn’t make sense to have essentially a doughnut and a doughnut hole as two separate districts,” Kuusinen said, referring to how the district surrounds the city. Forming one district could be the most effective.

Other issues the new board will consider include dealing with population growth in the district through steps such as determining when another fire station is needed and where other water sources are important.

“We need to try to set these long-term strategies for issues like funding … so that we’re adequately protected,” Kuusinen said.

The Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District election is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Christian Heritage School.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com