Fire Calls, Property inclusions, 2012 Audit
By Lynn Volkens
Timberline Fire Protection District’s board of directors met the evening of July 17, 2013, with members Rick Wenzel, Jim Crawford, Paul Ondr, and Chris Samuelson present. Kay Johnson attended via conference call.
During the period from June 2 to July 14, 2013, Timberline responded to 52 calls. The breakdown: Medical Assist to EMS Crew, 10 calls; Steam, Vapor, Fog or Dust, Thought to be Smoke, 10 calls; Smoke Scare/Odor of Smoke, 9 calls; EMS Call Excluding Vehicle Accident With Injury, 5 calls; Forest, Woods or Wildland Fire, 4 calls; False Alarm, 3 calls; Motor Vehicle Accident With Injury, 2 calls; Unauthorized Burning, 2 calls; Special Outside Fire, 1 call; Emergency Medical Service/Other, 1 call; Dispatched and Cancelled Enroute, 1 call; Motor Vehicle Accident with No Injuries, 1 call; Special Type of Incident/Other, 1 call; Steam or Other Gas Mistaken for Smoke, 1 call; and Smoke or Odor Removal, 1 call.
Fire Chief Chris Jennings said the majority of the wild land fires occurred on federal lands and were caught while still small. The use of helicopters to make water drops has been very helpful. Timberline also responded as mutual aid to a structure fire in Coal Creek Fire Protection District. Jennings said 13-14 Timberline people responded. He estimated that Timberline currently has 50 active volunteer firefighters. E51, one of the new engines, got a work out with 6-7 lines running all at once. Jennings said the truck performed beyond all expectations, operating for 7 ½ hours with no problems, and was particularly useful in preventing the fire from spreading further into the surrounding trees.
At the request of owner Shelan Golightly, and following the required public hearing, the property at 4692 Tolland Road was included into the fire protection district. Later in the meeting, the board discussed the possibility of limiting cost-free inclusions to certain advertised times, possibly once or twice per year. Ondr stated that doing so would save in legal costs. If a property owner wants to have a property included outside of the “inclusion period(s)” Timberline would still process the inclusion, but at the property owner’s expense. The cost of a single inclusion has yet to be determined. Properties for inclusion must lie within Timberline’s jurisdictional borders to be considered. Currently, there are several areas within the district which are not paying special district taxes for fire protection. Yet, should a fire occur at such a property, Timberline would still respond at least to extinguish the fire, if possible, or contain it and keep it from spreading to the forest or other properties. Timberline can charge a fee for responding to a non-included property, but that involves more administrative work and collection effort. The district administrator is now in the process of identifying the individual properties within Timberline borders which are not currently included, and may contact the property owners directly to offer inclusion.
Jason Adams of Timberline’s auditing firm, Poysti and Adams, LLC, summarized the 2012 audit which had been completed in May. Adams said his firm had issued an “unmodified” opinion (the new term for “unqualified” Adams explained) meaning that the district’s records comply with applicable financial reporting requirements. Under the category “Corrected and Uncorrected Misstatements,” the auditors proposed the following adjustments for the year ended December 31, 2012: To record the posting of property tax revenues and deferred revenue; to reclassify contingency expense to the natural categories; and to reclassify net assets per analysis. Under “Current Year Comments,” the auditors noted that the Fire Chief had accrued all of the vacation time that he’d earned, that no vacation time had been used during the year, and that no reporting was made to the district’s bookkeeper regarding the vacation time. They recommended the Chief report vacation time used in the same manner as other employees. There was some non-compliance with internal controls, and possibly with the Internal Revenue Code, related to credit card use. The auditors recommended that receipts be maintained, noting the business nature and purpose of each expenditure for all corporate credit card usage, “In case they’re examined by third parties.” Adams said, adding “Be transparent. At the end of the day, you’re accountable to all the taxpayers.” The manual for personnel policies and procedures is currently outdated and may be insufficient for Timberline’s needs. Updating was recommended. Similar to a comment made last year, the auditors recommended Timberline implement a system of controls to ensure that transactions involving cash are proper. That could mean having a member of the board receive and review the bank statement, unopened, from the bank with an examination of copies of the checks paid. Once board review is completed, the general ledger balances can be reconciled to the bank balances and those reconciliations formally reviewed and approved by a board member.
The board adjourned to Executive Session to discuss the form it will use for the chief’s quarterly evaluation. The first quarterly evaluation is planned for August.
Mutual Aid Agreement-Black Hawk
The board approved an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the city of Black Hawk, conditioned upon approval of Timberline’s legal counsel. The IGA provides for the joint exercise of the parties but keeps each entity separate. The parties could share in-kind services and costs when working toward a common mutual goal, but the IGA stipulates that each party remains responsible for its own costs. IGA’s such as this one, allow the different emergency responders to assist each other as needed.
Board treasurer, Chris Samuelson, provided a mid-year snapshot of the district’s financial standing. As of June 30, 2013, the current balance of the district’s bank account was $806,059. Regarding the General Fund, 75.24% of the district’s annual tax income had been collected, generating $373,778 in revenue year-to-date. Investment Income added $282 and Donations/Other income, $6,171. The revenue total, as of the end of June, stood at $380,232. Timberline has projected $497,373 in annual revenues. Midway through the year, most line items (with some exceptions) should have used approximately 50% of their budgeted amounts. Samuelson asked about several of the General Fund line items that are over that percentage. Some of those items are: Mileage-Administration (74.86%), explained by the Chief as mileage for Fire Marshal Gene Rouse, Business Administrator Jennifer Hinderman and Finance Officer Scott Nordgren; Maintenance/Training Staff Benefits (75.89%); Other Communications Equipment (142.47%), for radios; Firefighting Equipment and Tools (159.55%); Firefighting/Training (110.33%), due mostly to a class taken by one member; Gas Detectors (195%), Self –Contained Breathing Apparatus (109.13%), for fit testing equipment purchased in conjunction with Black Hawk Fire Department and Gilpin Ambulance; Vehicle Fuel (138.62%); Vehicle Repairs (86.7%); Vehicle Supplies (99.61%); Natural Gas/Propane-Station 3 (81.57%); and Natural Gas/Propane-Station 7 (80.91%); The General Fund began the year with a balance of $351,248 (including a TABOR reserve of $18,182) and ended June with a balance of $442,104. Expenditures from the General Fund for the month of June, totaled $44,828, including the cost of the annual audit at $6,582 and the monthly credit card bill of $4,921.
The Capital Fund began the year with a balance of $453,315, including the TABOR reserve of $65,110, and contained $795,746 at the end of June. The annual tax revenue is 77.2% collected, resulting in revenues of $170,741 year-to-date. The district has projected the annual tax revenue for this fund to be $221,182. Investment income added $198. This fund contains the loan proceeds (originally $1,262,886) which is being used to pay the lease-purchase of the six new fire trucks recently acquired. Proceeds from the sale of existing apparatus contributed $351,750.
The Boulder Water Fund finished in June with a balance of $8,622.
Apparatus/ Equipment Update
All of the new fire trucks have arrived and are in service. Four of the trucks were built with the wrong axles. The rear axles that were put on the trucks are rated for a weight of 23,800 pounds and need to be rated for 26,000 pounds. At a prior meeting, Chief Jennings explained that the manufacturer, Rosenbauer, had made the mistake and would replace the axles. The board decided to accept the trucks for use through the wildfire season and then send them back to Minnesota to have new 2014 axles installed in the fall. Jennings presented the new Rosenbauer “axle”contract for the board’s approval. Board members directed the chief to have the contract re-done as they had approved paying $4,000 for each axle, a total of $16,000, and the new contract priced each axle at $5,000, a total of $20,000. Further, Rosenbauer was to pay the transportation costs of returning each truck (fuel, hotel for drivers, etc.) and the new contract states that Timberline is responsible for those costs. Ondr said he wanted to see the “stripper sheet” as assurance that all the conditions were listed and that the numbers match what the board has said. The board intends to call a special meeting to approve the contract once it has been changed to meet their specifications.
E58, the engine that is planned to be housed at Station 8, once that station has been built, is currently being housed at Station 1 (Pinecliffe). The ladder of E58 was damaged when the truck was backed into the station and will need to be repaired. The chief reported the truck is still 98% functional.
Most of the district’s former equipment has been sold. A 1980 engine and two tenders are still awaiting sale. No offers have been received on a 1983 fire engine, and the chief is considering retaining it as a reserve.
High Country Auxiliary Donation
Two thermal cameras are being purchased for Timberline by High Country Auxiliary, the volunteer organization that supports emergency responders of both Timberline and Gilpin County Animal Response Team (GCART). Each camera costs approximately $4,000.
Station 2: The costs of operating Station 2 are two to three times that of other stations, Chief Jennings reported, as that station is staffed full-time by an ambulance crew. He will meet with Gilpin Ambulance Authority to discuss whether or not GAA should cover more of the costs. It was noted that this ambulance responds to the north end of Gilpin County and sometimes into Boulder County. The service is subsidized by Gilpin County, but Boulder County contributes no funding.
Station 3: Upgrades are underway in reconfiguring the administrative space on the second floor into individual offices which Chief Jennings has said could be used in the future as bedrooms. The new carpet and furniture has arrived. Chief Jennings proclaimed the work being done there by Timberline’s Maintenance/Training officer, Clay Bosworth, “Phenomenal!” Administrators are working out of Station 7 temporarily and expect to be back into Station 3 on August 1st.
Station 8: The building kit has arrived. Further excavation is underway. Jennings said the costs are expected to exceed the $90,000 budgeted. The figures aren’t final, however the chief provided the following amounts for expenditures that had not been included in the original budget: Excavation, $2,500; Finish the Building Pad, $10,700; Electrical and Lighting, $8,727; Garage Door Opener, $3,000; and Signage, $2,000.
Pension Board Meeting
The pension board, which consists of the board of directors plus firefighters John Carder and Chip Smith, discussed raising the monthly amount that is paid out to pensioners. Currently, the amount is based on a formula of $14 per year of service. Smith proposed raising that amount to $16. There are concerns that the interest rate of 7.5%, which has been used to project investment earnings, is not a reasonable rate and that 3.5% might be closer to reality. Before increasing the payout amount, the board wants to have a better understanding of the projected financial situation and of the actuarial study used in calculating the expected life spans of pensioners. Although the pension program has been closed to new members, the funding for current pensioners must be adequate for the next 30-50 years.
Timberline’s board of directors has scheduled a work shop meeting at 7 p.m. on August 6, 2013 to discuss policy issues. There may also be a Pension Board special meeting scheduled on that date to discuss the proposed increase in the pension payout amount.
The next regularly scheduled Timberline board meeting is August 21, 2013.