CRFR sets plans in motion for May ballot

Colorado River Fire Rescue Board of Directors unanimously decides to move ahead with mill levy this May

Members of the Colorado River Fire Rescue board listens to CRFR Chief Randy Callahan and members of the task force talk about moving forward with a mill levy on the May ballot.

The Colorado River Fire Rescue Board voted Tuesday night in favor of placing a mill levy on a May 5 ballot to help address diminished tax revenues.

Members of the Citizen Task Force formed by CRFR last year presented their findings and recommendation after extensive public feedback gathered through public meetings and a survey. 

This will be the first time in 25 years Rifle voters will vote on a tax measure for emergency services, and 16 years for both Silt and New Castle.

Currently the district has a levy of 6.102 mills and is asking voters in the district to pass another 6.099 mills in the May election. 

If we want people to show up when there is a fire or an accident, we are going to have to pay the bill,” Task Force member Raymond Langstaff said. 

Langstaff was one of the original board of directors that helped build the first building at CRFR. 

The fire district formed in 2012 with the merging of Burning Mountains Fire Protection District and Rifle Fire Protection District covers Rifle, Silt and New Castle, servicing 851-square-miles, 15,339 homes, and more than 25,000 residents.

Langstaff said that combining Burning Mountains Fire Protection District and Rifle Fire Protection District to create CRFR created some logistical problems that have to be solved, and the mill levy is one of the steps required to solve the discrepancy between the two original entities.

The district currently has six stations total across the district with four staffed stations including Stations 41 and 43 in Rifle, Station 61 in Silt and Station 64 in New Castle. Station 42 in Rifle is an interagency fire station shared with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management fire agencies, while Station 63 in New Castle is unstaffed.

The 6.099 mill CRFR plans to bring to the May ballot has an estimated tax impact of $3.63 per month, per $100,000 of a property’s actual value.

“There is a large commitment and responsibility to the community, and a large workload ahead, but it’s the right thing to do so the community has a voice,” CRFR Chief Randy Callahan said.

If approved, the mill levy would generate over $4 million in tax revenue to help the district address its highest priority personnel, equipment and facility needs to ensure emergency services and response times are maintained. 

CRFR lost 10 personnel to other fire districts in 2019, and currently has openings for 6 positions.

The 2020 budget has total revenues at over $6.2 million and expenditures at over $8.22 million.

Over the last four years the district has had to lean on its reserves, which are dependent on oil and gas revenues during good times boom.

The fire district’s overall assessed valuation dropped from $1.1 billion to roughly $745.56 million from 2015 to 2019.

After voting to move forward on the levy and approved wording on the ballot, board president Alan Lambert told all in attendance that the levy is going to be a big step for the district.

“I am pleased that we are taking this approach, because I think its is fiscally responsible,” Callahan said.

“It will be an all-in effort between all of us.”

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