`Yes’ to three local fire district issues
This summer proved like no other the value of our local fire departments. A seemingly endless series of wildfires put homes and lives at risk. Yet through the valiant efforts of firefighters and emergency crews, no residents lost their lives, or were injured, and the property loss was far less than it otherwise would have been.Now is the chance for residents of two local fire districts to support those who have supported them. In doing so, voters can further improve the ability of these districts to safeguard homes and families.On the Nov. 5 ballot is a 1.477-mill tax increase for the Burning Mountains Fire District, and “de-Bruceing” and term-limit exemptions for the Carbondale and Rural Fire District. We urge voters to say “yes” to all these measures.The Burning Mountains Fire District now covers 440 square miles, from just west of Canyon Creek to just east of Rifle, with just one full-time staff person, vehicles that average 10 years in age, and insufficient water transport equipment.Burning Mountains’ paid employee, Chief David Yowell, is flanked by a talented crew of 45 volunteers, the heart of this operation. But volunteers can only do so much, given the constraints placed on them by their paying jobs. Currently, only three to six firefighters are available for daytime responses to fires, something Yowell hopes to rectify by hiring three paid firefighters.Yowell also would use some of the $148,620 per year from the tax increase to modernize the fleet and increase fire tender capacity. The one converted garbage truck used to haul water hit its limits this summer. The drought reduced the amount of nearby pond and irrigation water that could be pumped in a fire, and showed the need to be able to haul it from more remote sources.The tax hike would increase the total mill levy to 6.102 mills. The owner of a commercial property worth $500,000 would pay another $214.17 a year in taxes, and the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $28.77 a year more.The Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District is asking voters to approve two ballot questions. The first is to continue an exemption from the revenue and spending limits of Amendment 1. Such an exemption is called “de-Bruceing” in reference to Amendment 1 author Douglas Bruce.District voters approved de-Bruceing in 1992, but it included a sunset provision of 10 years. Now, the board is comfortable asking for continuation of de-Bruceing with no sunset provision.We’re comfortable with it, too. It would allow the fire district, which extends from Marble to Missouri Heights, to collect taxes and grants without being limited by Amendment 1 formulas.De-Bruceing questions provide relief from the most onerous aspects of Amendment 1, while requiring that any tax rate increase occur only with voter approval. It simply allows taxing districts to keep all the revenues coming their way.Carbondale fire district voters also are being asked to lift another limit resulting from another Colorado citizen initiative. Fire district board members are currently limited to two four-year terms.This newspaper has become increasingly uncomfortable with term limits, especially at local levels. It is often hard enough to find willing candidates for unpaid positions. There’s no sense in automatically booting out competent officeholders. If an elected official needs to go, voters can act accordingly at the ballot box.Our valley is becoming increasingly urbanized, and residents’ expectations for fire response are increasing as well. Voting “yes” to the Burning Mountains and Carbondale fire issues would improve the ability of those departments to do their jobs even better.- Post Independent Editorial BoardMembers of the Post Independent Editorial Board are Publisher Valerie Smith, Managing Editor Heather McGregor and News Editor Dennis Webb.
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