The Falcon Fire Protection District held its regular monthly board meeting April 19. All board members were present except for Joan Hathcock, who was granted an excused absence. Richard Shearer, legal counsel for the district, also attended.
Fire Chief Trent Harwig reported that the fiscal year was 25 percent complete as of March 31. The district has received 41 percent of its anticipated revenue, and general fund expenditures were at 21 percent.
Harwig said the completion date for the new fire engine is May 18, which is 95 days overdue. However, he said the dealer “is treating us well” and the delay “may be to our advantage,” meaning the district could receive additional incentives or equipment. The remaining balance due for the engine is about $312,000.
The overall cost for Station 4 construction, including change orders, will be about $20,000 more than the original lease purchase amount.
Harwig advised the board that the purchase of two LifePak 15 cardiac monitors could add another $30,000 to the district’s budget. The district had an opportunity to buy these units at half price after the 2017 budget was approved. The district is applying for grants to cover the cost, but the budget may have to be amended if those grants are not awarded.
The volunteer pension board meeting scheduled for May has been rescheduled to the August regular board meeting.
FFPD had 183 calls for service in March, which was 2.8 percent more than March 2016. The 2017 year-to-date total of 520 is down 4.4 percent from last year.
Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS)
The district’s data analyst attended a two-day summit on Small Unmanned Aerial Systems in Public Safety hosted by the Colorado Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting. Fire departments across the country are using sUAS, commonly called “drones,” for search and rescue, fire scene assessments, fire investigations, preplanning of large buildings and more. The Federal Aviation Administration requires certification for public safety agencies and commercial operators to use sUAS.
While a suitable sUAS can be acquired for a relatively low price, costs increase with training for operators, assistance with FAA certification and peripheral equipment such as thermal imaging cameras and mapping software.
A group will be formed to identify specific uses for a sUAS at FFPD. They will research platforms and peripherals; determine costs; begin the certification process; and establish policies and procedures.
In order for local fire districts to collect impact fees, they must enter into an intergovernmental agreement with El Paso County that specifies how those fees are collected and spent. Harwig reported that the county now wants to be indemnified (free from loss or damage) so that districts have the burden to defend the county in legal matters.
Legal counsel Richard Shearer noted that the Public Safety Fairness Act was supposed to bring equality to all special tax districts since fire districts previously could not collect impact fees but “suffered the cost burden” associated with growth.
Harwig said the county could take a hard stance on the IGA even though it has local support. He also noted that the county came to the fire districts seeking a standardized process and fees instead of each fire district creating its own. Harwig said the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs is not opposed to an impact fee of $1,000 per residential structure. Tri-Lakes Monument, Security and Hanover fire protection districts have already conducted impact fee studies and asked for the IGA. Harwig estimated that FFPD is losing about $40,000 per month while the IGA is being sorted out. Shearer said there are legal options available that obligate the county to enter an IGA with fire districts, but that route is not preferred.
Director Dan Kupferer suggested having BBC Research & Consulting, a firm that conducts impact fee studies, present information to the county commissioners on behalf of the fire districts because it might be more effective than multiple fire district representatives speaking.
Shearer said he will put together a brief position paper to submit to the county commissioners to bring questions and concerns to their attention.
Harwig reported that multiple punch list items are being corrected, but the building is “substantially complete.” A handrail must be installed on each side of the two steps leading to the main entrance for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Concrete staining around doorjambs needs to be corrected, and a 110 outlet must be installed for the extraction washer (used for cleaning turnout gear).
Hammers Construction nominated Station 4 for a Design Build Award through Metallic Building Co., which supplied the metal building and received an Award of Excellence for the project.
Harwig reported that the residential property tax assessment rate has been recalculated at 7.2 percent instead of 6.56 percent. The rate still must be approved at the state level.
Harwig said the new rate still amounts to about a 10 percent decrease in residential property tax revenue for the district. “It’s a little better than it was, but it’s still going to go down,” he said. The rate could decrease again in two years because TABOR requires voter approval for tax rate increases, even though Gallagher was designed to fluctuate. Shearer said that both major political parties have said in interviews that they will not put a rate increase on the ballot. He also noted that this situation is another argument for implementing impact fees.
Approval of the board bylaws was postponed until all directors are in attendance at the next regular meeting.
Corrections to the FFPD March meeting article, published in April:
The following statement posted under the treasurer’s report is incorrect. “Regarding the capital projects fund, Harwig said there is about $300,000 left in the lease purchase agreements on Stations 1 and 4, about $200,000 of which the district is responsible for.”
The statement should read: “Regarding the capital projects fund, Harwig said the district will owe Hammers Construction about $131,000 plus change orders, leaving about $200,000 of the lease purchase funds for the district to complete its part of the Station 4 project.”
It should be noted that the fire district's only active lease purchase agreement is the $1.7 million for Station 4. The lease purchase for Station 1 was paid in full in 2015.
The February incident statistics under the chief’s report were incorrect. The FFPD noticed a drop of 7.52 percent in the year-to-date call volume for February, Harwig said. Districts 3 and 4 had 79 calls each, district 1 reported 125 calls, and districts 6, 2 and 5 received a combined 60 calls, he said. The average response time for calls was 10.42 minutes, which will drop once Station 4 is up and running, bringing the average response time down to about five to six minutes, Harwig said.
The following sentence contains the correct statistics:
The FFPD noticed a drop of 7.9 percent in the year-to-date call volume, Harwig said. District 3 had 36 calls and District 4 had 22 calls (the Colorado Springs Fire Department covered an additional 15 calls in District 4). District 1 reported 55 calls, and districts 6, 2 and 5 received a combined 28 calls. The average FFPD response time for calls in District 4 was 10:42 minutes, which will drop once Station 4 is up and running, bringing the average response time down to about five to six minutes, Harwig said.
Our apologies to the FFPD.