Axle problems to be fixed later
By Lynn Volkens
Timberline Fire Protection District’s board of directors met May 14, 2013. Board members Rick Wenzel, Jim Crawford, Kay Johnson and Paul Ondr were present. Chris Samuelson was absent. This report incorporates information from the April meeting. All board members were present at the April 17, 2013 meeting; Johnson attended via conference call. That meeting recessed into Executive Session at approximately 10:00 p.m., to discuss Fire Chief Jennings’ performance review, and adjourned at approximately 1:00 a.m. The April meeting was not written up as a separate Weekly Register-Call report. Interested parties may make arrangements to review the meeting minutes by calling the district’s administrative office at 303-582-5768, or watch for them to be posted on the website, http://timberlinefire.org.
As of April 30, 2013, the General Fund balance was $316,784 (includes a TABOR reserve of $83,292); the Capital Fund balance was $1,465,563 (includes the loan proceeds of $1,262,886 for lease-purchase of the new trucks); and the Boulder Water Fund balance was $8,622. Expenditures for April totaled $56,977. Partial itemization: Century Link and AT&T Mobility (communications), $760; United Power, Excel Energy and Colorado Natural Gas (utilities), $2,129; Collins Cockrell and Cole (legal fees), $765; Fuel, $1,118; GAAP Solutions (accounting), $276; Bank of America (credit card), $4,971; Roy’s Last Shot (awards dinner), $2,708; FPPA (pension), $1,149; Public Sector Healthcare and Humanadental, $2,233; VFIS (property/casualty insurance), $19,002; Pinnacol Assurance (workers’ compensation insurance), $1,048; QuickBooks Payroll Service (salaries), $10,477; Max Fire Apparatus (truck), $961; Pearson Education (training material), $1,541; and DirecTV, $94.98.
Jennings said the annual audit had gone smoothly and credited Financial Manager Scott Nordgren’s meticulous record keeping.
New Fire Trucks
The second of Timberline’s four new fire engines had arrived and was in service, Jennings reported. He said he had decided to have the engines delivered without a factory final inspection. The remaining two engines were due to arrive within the week. The two tender trucks that were ordered at the same time are ready for inspection at the factory, he said. Jennings planned to travel to the manufacturer in Minnesota to inspect them at the end of May. He said he would need help with the physical inspection and performance testing of the tenders and that three people would need to make the trip to accomplish that.
New Fire Trucks with Undersized Axels
At the end of April, it was discovered that four of the six new fire trucks ordered had been built with the wrong chassis. Jennings said this was due to a design error at the Rosenbauer manufacturing plant. The problem is the rear axle not being strong enough to support a fully loaded truck. Jennings was not comfortable with reducing the size of the water tanks on the trucks so each axle will need to be upgraded to bear another 1,000 pounds, bringing the total weight limit to 26,000 pounds. Switching out the axles was not possible; the only solution would be to put a complete new chassis on the four trucks. Doing that could take as much as six months, Jennings said, leaving Timberline without trucks through the wild fire season. Instead of waiting for the rebuild, the directors decided to accept the new trucks, temporarily. The trucks are safe, Jennings had reported, as he had taken off some of the equipment to reduce the weight load. After the wildfire season is over, probably in October or November, the trucks will be sent back to Rosenbauer, at the expense of the dealer, Max Fire Apparatus of Castle Rock, CO. The “box” of each truck will be taken off and new chassis, with upgraded axles, will be installed. Then the trucks will be put back together and returned to Timberline with all of the equipment Jennings had originally ordered. Had the trucks been ordered with the correct axle, the price of each truck would have been an additional $4,000. Jennings said there seemed to have been a “disconnect” in communication, resulting in the axle issue, but that the channels of communication have been good since then. “Maybe we should have done a performance bond,” he conceded. He had urged the directors in April to consider paying the additional $16,000, or at least part of it, as Timberline’s relationship with Max Fire Apparatus/ Rosenbauer will be ongoing for at least the next ten years, the term of the lease-purchase agreement for the trucks, and that agreement includes truck maintenance.
A month ago, the directors had delayed the decision in order to talk with their attorney and consider any effects there would be on the leasing arrangement, VIN numbers, whether a new contract would be needed, etc. Last week, the directors authorized Jennings to proceed with replacement of the four chassis, at a cost not to exceed $20,000. That amount allows $1,000 more, per truck, to add power windows and door locks, at Jennings’ request. Max Fire Apparatus is to come back with a new contract for the directors to review. The consensus of the board was to pay the current invoices related to the trucks.
The Chief had considered upgrading to a larger engine in each truck to improve the brake and engine power. Estimated cost of changing to a larger engine was $10,000 per truck. After evaluating the performance of the new fire engine, he found that upgrade was unnecessary.
Old Fire Trucks
Timberline has collected $301,000 through sales of its current fire trucks. Four vehicles had been sold, and tentatively sold are Engine 3 for $145,000 and Brush 6 for $39,000. If those sales go through, the district will be $139,000 ahead of the $349,000 budgeted revenue projection and the board will need to decide how to reflect the gain in the 2013 budget, Jennings said.
Station 1 Update
In April, the directors determined that there was nothing “catastrophic” likely to occur at Station 1, located near Pinecliffe. The district has a document that says the large boulder on the hillside above the station is stable, Crawford reported. The safety of the building has been an ongoing concern by some members of the department. Jennings said it was an “emotional” issue. The Chief had not seen documentation substantiating the safety issues. Board members and the Chief hope to put the matter to rest.
Chief Jennings reported that the width of the mirrors on the new fire engine can be shortened, which should mean less mirror damage when parking it in the station. The ladder rack on the new truck will clear the station door, he said.
Station 3 Remodel
The upper floor of Station 3, located at 660 Highway 46, is being reconfigured to section off areas into individual administrative offices. Two sections of wall will be constructed, two new doors installed and new carpet throughout. A rear deck will be added. Jennings said the upgrade is consistent with future plans for all stations and provides “options for repurposing without loss of investment.” The floor currently houses the Chief’s office and open office space shared by the business manager and financial manager, plus a storage closet, kitchen, full bathroom and conference room. The proposed remodel shows two individual offices, formed by incorporating the closet space and adding doors; repurposes the current shared office space into a conference room; and repurposes the current conference room into a day room. Any of the new offices could be used as bedrooms, and the location of headquarters changed, Jennings explained, should Timberline choose to have overnight staffing in the future. Estimated cost of the remodel is $20,000.
Station 7 Upgrade
This station, located at 14908 Highway 119, houses the district’s classroom. That room will be carpeted, painted and new window blinds and white boards installed. Jennings said the estimated project cost was relatively low, at $10,000.
Station 8 Update
Timberline is putting the contract to erect the building for Station 8 back out for bid. The site for the station is located at the intersection of Highway 46 and Smith Hill Road. The metal kit for the building was ordered last fall, but no contractor had been signed to erect it. Jennings said there may have been changes in the market since then, resulting in people looking for work. The Chief was to work out the details of the contract, specifically whether to include the foundation work as part of the erection or bid it out separately. Another consideration is that the design plans for Station 8 do not include a water source, and the building or site may need bathroom facilities.
Between April 1st and May 9th, Timberline responded to 24 calls, including: Medical Assist to EMS crew, 6 calls; EMS Call Excluding Vehicle Accident with Injury, 3; Emergency Medical Service/Other, 2; Motor Vehicle Accident with Injuries, 3; Motor Vehicle Accident with No Injuries, 2; Smoke Scare/Odor of Smoke, 3; Alarm System Soundings/No Fire, 3; Carbon Monoxide Incident, 1; and Building Fire, 1. Chief Jennings credited a homeowner for saving his home. The homeowner had smoke detectors which alerted him to a basement fire and he used fire extinguishers to put it out. Jennings said there had been two structures saved in the past month and that the station crews had done great work. “The training is showing,” he said. As of last month, Timberline had around 55 volunteers on the roster.
Property Inclusion (s)
The board held the required public hearing before approving an order to include Kristl Kelly’s Lower Travis Gulch property and Kerry Giambrocco’s Black Hawk Peak Road property into the fire protection district. Timberline is considering an outreach program to encourage others in the Travis Gulch area to have their properties included. Business Manager Jennifer Hinderman is to meet with the Gilpin County Assessor to better identify which properties currently have no fire protection.
Open Records Request
Firefighter Ryan Roberts had emailed a request for copies of Timberline’s solicitations for bids on the new fleet of trucks, with records of vendors contacted and when. Chief Jennings emailed Roberts that his correspondence would be included in the next board meeting and entered as public record. He told Roberts that he had made copies of the bids for Station 8 (47 pages) and Roberts could pick them up at Station 3, at the cost of 25 cents per page. Jennings invoked the seven-day extension of the Colorado Open Records Act so the board could review his proposed response regarding the bids on the trucks. The usual response time, required by that statute, is 72 hours. With the board’s approval, the Chief’s response read: “The decision and subsequent approval for the apparatus purchase were based primarily on the Chief’s recommendations. The Chief’s recommendations were based on many factors, a few of which were the local dealers response to our needs, local vendors ability to provide onsite repair and maintenance, inspections of similar vehicles from other manufacturers, department reviews of the Rosenbauer Timberwolf, and the use of a proven platform and pump system. Timberline did not solicit bids from other vendors because there were no other vendors at the time that could or showed interest in the project.”
One of the primary functions of a board of directors is to set district policy. In April, board treasurer Samuelson said there needed to be a better system of “keeping an eye on the budget” regarding how much is being spent and for what purpose. He suggested a policy with a purchase requirement with limits on spending and that when a check is issued it is recorded on an expense report and could be tied into the inventory system. He specifically named the credit card expenditures as an area that needed to be tracked and said he was uncomfortable with the number of credit cards, seven or eight, that were available for use. “I do not see enough policy or procedure that shows every dime of the taxpayers’ dollar is being justified and accounted for,” he said. Jennings expressed concern that “Too much control drives up administrative costs.” Samuelson said he’d like to see an incident report with the expenditure listings; Jennings responded “That’s personnel.” Samuelson and Jennings agreed to work together on a policy to cover purchasing, inventory, and credit cards. Ondr was to check into systems used by other fire departments. They had not met as of the May meeting.
Wenzel informed the board that Timberline’s attorney had asked if there were any TABOR issues that needed to be put on the ballot in November. There were not. However, that also brought up the question of whether the district would like to participate in the November general election for their next board election. The terms of directors Crawford, Johnson, and Samuelson expire in May 2014. Wenzel said the district could hold the election of the directors in November, but not swear them in until May. In April, Samuelson expressed a wish to “get more valuable public involvement” and asked if a stipend could be offered to entice people to run for the internal pension board, or the board of directors. Crawford pointed out that the pension board membership is limited to department members and retirees. Wenzel noted that statute allows board members to receive up to $100 per month as a stipend. No decision was made on offering a stipend, or on whether to participate in the general election, however the board members plan to reach out to the public and encourage more people to run.
501 (c) (3) Status
Noting that Golden Gate Canyon Fire Protection District is collecting money via a King Soopers card program, Ondr asked if the district would need to obtain 501 (c)(3) status to establish a fund to use revenues collected that way. Crawford said he favored that status based on his experience with the east coast fire department he also serves. Jennings suggested establishing a firefighters association who could decide how to use donated funds. Ondr, who wears two hats, that of director and that of firefighter, said he didn’t feel the board should be soliciting money to run the department as, “We get tax dollars to do that, but if firefighters want to do that for things they want, that’s great.” Wenzel said the board didn’t need to act on it immediately. Hinderman noted that Timberline can accept donations and donators can use the contributions on their tax returns without the district obtaining the special 501(c)(3) status.
Critical Illness Insurance
The board voted to make a critical illness insurance program available to district members, at their own expense, of approximately $96 per year.
A Gilpin resident offered his observations regarding 501 (c) (3) status. He expressed concerns about a five month delay between electing new board directors and swearing them in, if Timberline were to participate in the general election. He also suggested that Timberline look into services they could provide to Gilpin County for emergency preparedness, such as a disaster evacuation drill with coordinated training exercises. “The public should be willing to pay for it,” he said, adding that it could be an additional source of revenue for Timberline.
The directors determined there are several issues that need to be handled in work session. A strategic plan regarding station location, whether to follow the current station model or change to satellite stations, and how to place apparatus is a priority. Without a plan, the district can’t do a bond issue, Ondr noted in April. The plan is needed if the district wants to improve its ISO rating. It could also address “What happens to the ambulance district in the future if it gets put under us for our district?” Jennings said. Samuelson commented that the board would have a better handle on budget issues with a plan in place. The May 30th date of that work session was cancelled due to the travel needed for the fire truck inspections. A date is still pending.
Timberline’s board of directors is scheduled to meet next on June 19, 2013. They have changed their meeting location, for that date only, and will meet at Station 4, located at 5927 Magnolia Road.