Colorado River Fire Rescue board candidates address district needs
Colorado River Fire Rescue board candidates
4-year candidates (2 seats up for election)
Paige Haderlie – Rifle
Carl Artaz – New Castle
Addy Marantino – Rifle
Yvonne Long (incumbent) – Rifle
Rex Rhule (incumbent) – Rifle
2-year candidates (1 seat up for election)
Alan Lambert (incumbent) – Rifle
Scott Marsh – Rifle
Suzanne Abernathy – Rifle
With the election set in two weeks, Colorado River Fire Rescue District voters have had several opportunities to learn who to vote for in what is the district’s most contested race since the Rifle and Burning Mountain districts merged into one six years ago.
“This is definitely the most public exposure of any election I’ve seen in a fire board out here,” said Landon Churchill, president of the firefighters union, who has lived in the area for over 20 years.
He attributed the interest, eight candidates for three open seats, to the budgetary constraints that fire boards across the state have had to face over the past few years, and as local districts no longer receive as much funding from the oil and gas industry as in the past.
The neighboring Grand Valley Fire Protection District, serving the Parachute/Battlement Mesa area, has four candidates for three open seats.
“The budget drops each year; fiscal management is as important as ever,” Churchill added.
Fiscal responsibility was one of the many issues brought up at the district’s election forum earlier this month, as candidates Paige Haderlie, Alan Lambert, Addy Marantino, Scott Marsh and Rex Rhule discussed the challenges facing the district in 2018. Candidates Suzanne Abernathy, Carl Artaz and Yvonne Long did not participate in the forum.
When asked “How would you attempt to balance the budget?” each of the five candidates at the forum had different solutions.
Paige Haderlie said that money and people are two points of contention that she has experience with.
Haderlie said she’s only had a few days to review the budget, but “one of the biggest things I’ve seen is that for 2017 it will be running in a deficit.”
“That’s not something that’s sustainable,” she commented. “That’s something that immediately we will have to put some focus to and see what we can do.”
She said some of the firefighters and EMT workers she’s spoken to are concerned about pensions and compensation.
“The deficit will be very important to overcome,” Alan Lambert said. “We can’t continue to run on a deficit and survive.”
Lambert said he has implemented employee hiring freezes and wage freezes at positions he’s held in the past that have been effective.
“Number of things you can do,” he said. “Sit down with everybody and come up with a solution.”
He wants to hear more from the public to help turn the budget around.
Scott Marsh said he feels that balancing the budget is one of the main jobs he will have to accomplish as a board member.
“People are worried about their job as a firefighter serving this community. I don’t think they should be worried about having a job,” he added. “Rather than see a hiring or wage freeze, I would see if there wouldn’t be a way to do it without balancing on the backs of the employees.”
Current board president Rex Rhule commented on how great it is to see such excitement and enthusiasm toward the board.
“Operating in the red is never fun,” he said. “We live in a boom and bust economy, and the economy cycles.”
He said he expects the department heads to think outside the box, adding that Inter-Facility Transports has been one service the district has added with big opportunity.
Addy Marantino, on the other hand, questioned why IFTs are still not a revenue source for the district after five years since being implemented.
“If it’s a failing revenue stream, maybe it’s time to walk away and invest elsewhere,” she said of all the projects CRFR’s seems to invest in each year.
She wants to look into the Wildland Division and IFTs to see if it is an important free revenue option that is valuable to the department.
“Once you clear up those things you figure out a way to invest in people,” she added. “Investing in people, wages, pensions and training is something that is lacking statewide.”
Board elections will be held at the fire stations in Rifle, Silt and New Castle on May 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Churchill said residents must cast their ballots in person at their local fire station in order to vote. He added that, of the roughly 5,000 eligible voters in the last election, just 56 people voted. More information about the candidates can be found on the Colorado River Fire Fighters Association Facebook page, including short video bios from some.