The Falcon Fire Protection District held its regular monthly board meeting Sept. 20. Directors Dan Kupferer, Mike Collins and Cory Galicia were present, as well as Richard Shearer, legal counsel for the district. Directors Tom Kerby and Joan Hathcock were granted excused absences.
Quilt of Valor
Falcon resident Susan Wright presented a Quilt of Valor crafted by Wright and her friend, Anne Frampton. Wright said the quilt is in appreciation of Falcon’s firefighters and their service to the community.
Fire Chief Trent Harwig reported that the fiscal year was 66 percent complete as of Aug. 31. The district has received 96 percent of its anticipated revenue in the general fund, which is normal for this time of year because of the receipt of property tax revenues. General fund expenditures are at 57 percent, which is 9 percent under budget.
2015 International Fire Code
Harwig reported that the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department and the Colorado Springs Fire Department are in the process of adopting the 2015 version of the International Fire Code, with implementation anticipated in January 2018. Public comment closes Oct. 17. Harwig said CSFD has many amendments, but it makes sense for FFPD to align its fire code with theirs since CSFD conducts plan reviews for FFPD.
Harwig noted that marijuana grow operations are not included in the 2015 IFC. “It’s going to be important that we look at that,” he said. “We don’t want it to be easier for grows to happen here than in the city.” He said FFPD had responded to a fire at a marijuana grow house earlier in September.
El Paso County Emergency Services Authority
Harwig reported that he has been appointed to the county ESA board as a representative for Pikes Peak area fire chiefs. Harwig said the ESA board is exploring options to maintain ambulance service in the county since the city’s contract with American Medical Response ends in December 2018; and the county’s ends in 2019. Among the possible options: the creation of a health service district funded by a mill levy; a subscription-type plan for county residents to cover the cost of ambulance transports; and allowing ambulance providers to charge their own rates instead of imposing a cap as is currently done.
It is not known whether the existing contract with AMR will be renewed or if a new contract will be awarded to a competitor. Harwig said, “Something in the next two years is going to happen. We just don’t know what.”
The board discussed what it would take for FFPD to run its own ambulance service for district residents, including funding, expenses, staffing and equipment. Director Dan Kupferer said, “As a board, we need to be planning for that eventuality.” Harwig noted that AMR’s response times “have been getting worse, not better” but said he feels that FFPD cannot run its own ambulance service without a mill levy increase.
Harwig said he has not received word about the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. If awarded, FFPD would use the funds to increase the number of full-time firefighters. However, because much of the grant funding has already been awarded, Harwig said, “It’s not looking good.”
Tax revenue update
Harwig said property assessment numbers were released in August. FFPD was still able to realize an 8 percent increase in assessed property values, which amounts to a $234,400 increase in revenue for 2018. However, the district lost out on an estimated $228,000 it would have collected had the residential property assessment rate not decreased, as required under the Gallagher Amendment.
Harwig said, considering salaries and benefits, it costs about $585,000 to hire nine full-time firefighters (one on each of the three shifts for each of the district’s three staffed stations). The SAFER grant would go a long way toward covering that expense to increase staffing, but if it is not received, other budgetary adjustments have to be made.
Harwig discussed “brownouts,” which are periods when operations must be modified to accommodate decreased staffing levels. He said the district staffs two full-time personnel (an officer and a driver) at each of its three staffed fire stations daily. Although brownouts are usually of short duration, Harwig reported that they occurred four times in August for a total of 15.5 hours. He noted that staffing levels are affected by scheduled vacations and sick leave, and the district has been further impacted by two of its members on long-term medical leave this year.
Harwig said reservists have been averaging 580 hours per month for a total of 4,640 hours as of Aug. 31. However, monthly reservist hours have decreased since some of the reservists have been hired as part-time employees. A new reservist academy is scheduled to start Nov. 1.
The district responded to 226 incidents during the month of August. The year-to-date total of 1,605 represents a 15.4 percent increase over the same period in 2016.
Discussion of the chief’s contract renewal was postponed until October to allow all board members to be present.
Resolution No. 09-20-2017-1
The board unanimously approved Resolution No. 09-20-2017-1, which allows the district to enter into an agreement for the Colorado Firefighter Heart and Cancer Trust, which provides firefighters with heart and circulatory malfunction benefits and cancer benefits consistent with state statutes.
Susan Wright presented a Quilt of Valor to the Falcon Fire Protection District. The quilt was pieced by Wright and quilted by her friend, Anne Frampton: (from left to right) Susan Wright, Director Mike Collins, driver operators Kelley DeLaney and Curtis Kauffman, Fire Chief Trent Harwig and Director Dan Kupferer. Photo by Robin Widmar