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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
– Henry David Thoreau  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 10 October 2017  

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  FFPD May board meeting
  By Robin Widmar

   The Falcon Fire Protection District held its regular monthly board meeting May 17. All board members were present, along with Richard Shearer, legal counsel for the district.
   
   Falcon firefighter Cody Finn-Kuecker was sworn in as a lieutenant.
   
   Treasurer’s report
   Fire Chief Trent Harwig reported that 33 percent of the fiscal year was complete. Forty-seven percent of anticipated revenues has been received, and general fund expenditures were at 26 percent.
   
   Incident statistics
   There were 193 calls for service in April — 40 more than April 2016. The year-to-date total is 713 incidents, which represents a 2.3 percent increase over the same period in 2016.
   
   Preliminary statistics indicate that the new Station 4 is already reducing response times to District 4, which includes areas in the vicinity of Constitution Avenue and Marksheffel Road. In 2016, FFPD response times to District 4 averaged 11 minutes and four seconds. Between May 12 and May 17, the average response time was four minutes and 44 seconds. The data analyst cautioned that this is an early snapshot but it demonstrates improved service to that area.
   
   Meridian and U.S. Highway 24 intersection
   Director Tom Kerby said issues with right-of-way, design layout and property owner concerns have slowed the process, but final design plans are close to being completed. He has requested a copy of the final plan to review.
   
   Station 4
   Harwig reported that Station 4 is now in service, and thanked everyone who came out to the grand opening.
   
   Gallagher amendment
   Harwig said the state approved a residential property assessment rate of 7.2 percent. An informal poll of FFPD members who live in the fire district indicated assessed value increases, ranging from 4.5 percent to around 14 or 15 percent.
   
   He said the district projects a 10 percent increase on residential property values but a 10 percent decrease in revenue due to the reduced assessment rate, with new growth estimated at 3 to 4 percent. “Even with the Gallagher adjustment, we may still see a slight increase (in revenue), but not nearly what was anticipated,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in the future.”
   
   Harwig noted that the residential assessment rate stayed at 7.96 percent for a long time. “The best we can hope for is it will stay at 7.2 percent for a long time.”
   
   Impact fees
   Harwig reported that the county held a second work session regarding impact fees being collected by fire districts. He explained that fire districts can conduct studies to determine the appropriate impact fees to support the demands of new growth, but state statute requires that the county enter into an intergovernmental agreement with those districts to allow the fire districts to collect the fees.
   
   Harwig said the Hanover, Security and Tri-Lakes Monument fire protection districts have already had impact fee studies done. He said the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs supports impact fees for fire districts as long as the statute is being met. Harwig said the county commissioners will probably vote on the IGA at their May 30 meeting.
   
   BBC Research & Consulting presentation
   Mollie Fitzpatrick and Clinton Saloga from BBC Research & Consulting explained different methods for establishing impact fees. BBC conducted the impact fee studies for the Hanover, Security and Tri-Lakes Monument fire protection districts. They also presented the information to the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners.
   
   “We feel good about the county moving forward,” Fitzpatrick said. “The commissioners are on board, it’s just a matter of getting them comfortable with it.”
   
   Fitzpatrick said the state statute made it “explicitly” legal for fire districts to collect impact fees, which shift some of the costs of growth to the developments responsible for that growth. Harwig clarified that the El Paso County IGA states impact fees will be collected at the time the building permit application is submitted, regardless of how long an area has been platted.
   
   Fitzpatrick described impact fees as one-time use fees applied to new development. She said their expenditure is restricted to infrastructure expansion purposes such as capital projects and physical assets, and must be directly related to service for the new developments. Impact fees cannot be used to fix deficiencies in existing services or for staffing.
   
   She said a U.S. Supreme Court case determined that impact fees may be used to improve existing facilities if that work also improves service due to new growth. For example, they cannot be used to remodel an existing fire station, but if the department requires an additional fire truck to service a new development, then impact fees could be spent on adding a truck bay to the existing facility to house the new apparatus.
   
   Fitzpatrick said a district’s impact fee fund must be maintained separate from its general fund. Fee amounts may be updated annually based on established inflation indices such as the Consumer Price Index, and may be modified periodically as dictated by significant changes in infrastructure or service population.
   
   BBC charges about $10,000 for an impact fee study. It is an 8 to 10 week process that includes all study calculations, preparing the report and presenting the information to the board and/or the board of county commissioners if requested. Fitzpatrick noted that impact fees can be used to pay for the study.
   
   Harwig estimated the fire district is losing more than $30,000 per month based on 40 new residential permits per day in the FFPD jurisdiction, and using the Tri-Lakes Monument FPD impact fee model of $777 per new home.
   
   The board voted to prepare a contract with BBC Research & Consulting for an impact fee study subject to the county adopting the IGA on May 30. The contract will not go into effect unless that approval happens.
  
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  New fire station benefits residents
  By Robin Widmar

   The opening of Falcon Fire Protection District Fire Station 4 May 13 represents one more step in the ongoing process of keeping up with growth in unincorporated El Paso County.
   
   Since its inception as the Falcon Volunteer Fire Department in 1975, FFPD has grown from a single firehouse to three staffed and two unstaffed stations. It once served a largely rural population but now provides emergency services to residential and commercial properties in urbanized, semi-rural and rural areas. Growth and development drive FFPD to continuously expand operations so that its residents receive the most effective and efficient service possible.
   
   However, funding doesn’t always keep up with growth, and Station 4 was a long time coming. During the May FFPD board meeting, Fire Chief Trent Harwig said, “Station 4 should have been built years ago, but district residents voted down two bond proposals. Many voters expressed the opinion that the cost of a new station should be borne by the developers and residents who created the need for that station.”
   
   The size and reach of Falcon’s fire district often surprises people. Although the Falcon community was originally centered in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 24 and Meridian Road, the fire district covers 113 square miles, including properties along Constitution Avenue and Marksheffel Road. At one time, the Banning Lewis Ranch was part of FFPD’s jurisdiction. The city’s annexation of the ranch, situated between U.S. Highway 24 and Marksheffel Road, fragmented the southern part of the fire district but left a handful of areas that still required FFPD’s services.
   
   This area, known in the FFPD as Response Zone 4 or District 4, has posed challenges in terms of emergency response. It encompasses a combination of single-family and multi-family homes, commercial properties and industrial operations, as well as two high-volume thoroughfares. In 2016, response times to District 4 averaged just over 11 minutes because of the distance (about 8 miles) from the nearest fire station at U.S. Highway 24 and Old Meridian Road. Automatic and mutual aid agreements with the Colorado Springs and Cimarron Hills fire departments helped ensure that residents would receive help more quickly, but that was never intended to be a permanent solution.
   
   At the same time, a steady call volume made District 4 the third busiest response zone in the fire district. Between 2007 and 2016, FFPD responded to an average of 274 calls for service per year in this zone. That annual count does not include an estimated 200 incidents covered by the Colorado Springs Fire Department under a Memorandum of Understanding. With the opening of Station 4, FFPD will absorb those additional calls for service. And since there is still has plenty of vacant land slated for future development, a growing population and increasing traffic along the Constitution and Marksheffel corridors, the number of emergency calls in District 4 is not expected to diminish.
   
   Preliminary statistics for the 10 days following Station 4’s opening indicate that average response times for District 4 could be reduced by as much as 50 percent when firefighters are available at or near the new fire station at 2710 Capital Drive. It is important to note that these initial numbers are based on a relatively small number of responses, and a variety of factors can affect response times and increase that average. Still, the future of response times in FFPD District 4 looks promising.
   
   And District 4 residents are not the only ones who will benefit from FFPD’s newest staffed fire station. The Insurance Services Office factored Station 4 into its 2016 audit of FFPD. That helped the fire district improve its insurance ratings which, in turn, lowered homeowner insurance premiums for many residents. Harwig said, “That station was a large contributor to the improvement of our ISO rating. Everyone benefits because of lower insurance premiums.”
  
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  The grand opening
  By Robin Widmar

   Many local emergency responders and citizens came out to celebrate the public grand opening of FFPD’s Fire Station 4 on Saturday, May 13. Event organizers wish to thank everyone who brought apparatus, set up displays, cooked lunch, and, in general, helped make the day a memorable one:
  • American Medical Response
  • Black Forest Fire/Rescue
  • Boy Scout Troop 221
  • Cimarron Hills Fire Department
  • Colorado Springs Fire Department
  • El Paso County Hazardous Materials and Decon teams
  • El Paso County Office of Emergency Management and the Community Emergency Response Team
  • El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
  • El Paso County Wildland Team
  • Ellicott Fire Department
  • Memorial Star Helicopter
  • Peyton Fire Department
  • Pikes Peak Firefighters Association Fire Rehab
  • UC Health

   Special thanks to Schanel Construction Inc. for providing a banner, and to Ewing Irrigation for allowing FFPD personnel to use their parking lot during the event.
  
Engine 314 rolls out of the new Falcon Fire Protection District Station 4 for the first time during the May 13 grand opening of the station. Photo by Robin Widmar
 
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