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Timberline Fire directors ask Gilpin commissioners to provide services

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Rollinsville station, road maintenance, fuel and mechanic services

By Lynn Volkens

Timberline Fire Protection District (TFPD) board members Rick Wenzel, Jim Crawford, Kay Johnson and Paul Ondr met in a work session with Gilpin County Commissioners on February 26, 2013, to discuss ways for the County and fire district to work together, said Crawford by way of introduction. Crawford provided an update of TFPD’s actions over the past year, including the hiring of a full-time fire chief and the six new fire trucks TFPD has purchased, five of them via lease-purchase. “We’re working on developing partnerships with our neighbors with mutual aid agreements and we want to work on developing a relationship with the County,” he said. He asked what TFPD could do to support the County, “Do you want regular reports from us, workshops?” he asked. “There’s no one responsible for doing emergency preparedness and planning and we can’t do that for people who aren’t paying taxes to our district,” Crawford said, but offered to “collaboratively look” at no-man’s lands and “who can do what” to help those areas prepare and mitigate fire risk. “Then there’s what the County can do to support us,” he went on.

TFPD had a wish list of several items they hope the Commissioners will approve. They’d like to use a bay in the Public Works building located in Rollinsville to house a fire truck. That location would provide better service to the greater Rollinsville area and out to Tolland, as well as the right-of-way along the Union Pacific’s rail line, Crawford said. The railroad is not required to do any fire mitigation work along its route, (although County Manager Roger Baker pointed out that they do it inadvertently, as “They light it on fire every few years,” when sparks from passing trains ignite the brush.)

Water supply is a challenge for TFPD, Crawford noted, sparking a discussion regarding the cisterns that the pre-merger fire departments, High Country and Colorado Sierra, had constructed in their districts. The cisterns are small, can’t always be accessed, and the one at Rollinsville is leaking, Crawford explained. “Do you have plans to build cisterns?” Commissioner Schmalz asked. “Not at this time,” Crawford answered, “We’re still in the evaluation process.” A 35,000 gallon cistern, which Crawford said is considered “small,” costs an estimated $100,000. The new direction for the district is to use the Ameristar’s 200,000 gallon cistern located at their mid-county warehouse and then refill it after each use. The Public Works department also has a large mid-county cistern, Crawford said. He asked if TFPD and the County could form an official agreement for TFPD to have use of the Public Works water trucks. The details of which trucks would be available, when, and how to have them dispatched could be spelled out in that agreement, Crawford said.

Snow plowing – specifically for non-maintained roads is another issue for TFPD. They asked “What can the County do?” The roads, although named, are private, essentially long driveways that access residences, but the private owners of the roads aren’t cutting trees or doing other maintenance that insures that large emergency vehicles can reach them in the event of either a structure fire or wild land fire.

Fourth on the TFPD wish list: Reimbursable Services – specifically, TFPD would like to be able to use the wash bay at the Road and Bridge building to wash their trucks, and also would like to be able to pay the County’s mechanic to do minor maintenance work on the fire district’s vehicles. “That would save us from having to go to Denver or Boulder,” Crawford said.

Finally, TFPD wants to be able to buy fuel from the County’s in-house fueling station. Currently they are buying their fuel from the Taggert’s gas station. Fuel tanks that had been maintained for in-house fueling by High Country prior to the merger have been abandoned. Ondr noted the inefficiency of fuel left in the tanks, “Old fuel keeps the trucks from running,” Wenzel added, “They are an environmental disaster waiting to happen.”

County Commissioners had numerous questions regarding charging non-taxpaying residents for service, although collection can be a problem, and some residents would rather forego fire service than pay the special district tax, even if their residence burns down, they acknowledged. Driveway access will have to be handled with the private property owners, they said, as the County cannot mandate that homeowners cut trees.  They said they weren’t sure they could help with the water issues, but that TFPD’s board should talk with Public Works Director Curt Logsdon about it. They would also need to talk with Logsdon about using the Public Works building in Rollinsville and services at the Road and Bridge facility. Commissioner McLain recommended that Emergency Preparedness Director Steve Watson be consulted and Commissioner Watson added that CSU Extension Agent Irene Shonle would be good to work with on the emergency preparedness education aspects.

Using County tax money to fund purposes that are usually funded through special district taxes can be difficult. Simply giving TFPD money (or giving it to any special district which has its own taxes for its purposes) is illegal, County Manager Roger Baker said. But there are ways around that, he confirmed. Commissioners plan to review the recommendations of the County’s staff regarding each TFPD proposal and then will decide how to proceed. “We’ll plan to get together with you in the next two to three months,” Commissioner Schmalz advised TFPD’s directors, and concluded the meeting.

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