Fire districts await audit report |

Fire districts await audit report

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Area fire officials are expecting soon to receive a draft audit report on the operations of fire districts in Rifle, Silt, New Castle and Glenwood Springs, as well as some indication of how those departments might work together to provide better service and perhaps lower costs.

Burning Mountains Fire Chief Brit McLin, whose district includes Silt and New Castle, said Monday that a consultant working for the Rifle, Burning Mountains and Glenwood Springs fire protection districts continues to explore the idea of in some way combining operations.

But, he stressed, “There were no predirected outcomes of this study, except to somehow find opportunities for us to improve service.”

The departments have been sharing the $68,000 cost (not $45,000, as previously reported) of the study by Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) of Oregon. McLin described the study as an audit of the departments’ operations and administration.

McLin emphasized that there is no merger talk at this point.

“Merger is sort of the top end, most difficult, most complete sort of thing,” he said, among the options open to the different departments.

Because Glenwood Springs has a municipal fire department, whereas Rifle, Burning Mountains and Glenwood Rural are all fire departments for rural areas, there are legal complexities involved with a true merger that make it less likely to happen.

But cooperative agreements, sharing of administration or operations, formation of a fire authority to oversee the different departments, or some other arrangement might make sense, McLin said.

Creating such arrangements, he continued, might be easy given the population distribution of Garfield County along the I-70 corridor, coupled with the possibility of reducing costs by cutting down on duplication of services.

“We want to provide better service at responsible levels of financial commitment,” McLin declared.

Gary Tillotson, acting fire chief for the Glenwood Springs and Glenwood Rural departments, agreed with McLin’s assessment.

“At this point, I’m very optimistic that we’re going to be able to find a place where we can avoid some costs,” Tillotson said, and improve the level of service to the different districts.

“The hope is that we can share some of our preparedness costs, avoid some duplications, to provide a more enhanced service to everybody,” he said.

The ESCI audit, McLin said, is due in draft form in a week or two.

The departments will then review the study and either suggest changes or accept it as written.

A final ESCI audit report is due in November, McLin said, noting that there will be public meetings in each district to discuss the final audit report and what it might mean for county residents.

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