The Falcon Fire Protection District held its regular monthly board meeting Nov. 15. All directors were present except for Mike Collins, who participated via teleconference. Richard Shearer, legal counsel for the district, did not attend. Fire Chief Trent Harwig was on vacation.
Deputy Chief Jeff Petersma administered the oath of office to FFPD Firefighter Travis Kuemmerle, who was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Petersma reported that the fiscal year was 83.3 percent complete as of Oct. 31. The district had received 101 percent of its anticipated revenue. General fund expenditures remained under budget at 70 percent.
Significant purchases anticipated before Dec. 31 include personal protective equipment for new recruits and mobile data computers (MDCs). Petersma said the $32,000 cost of the MDCs will be split between the 2017 and 2018 budgets.
Petersma explained some recent staffing changes. Kuemmerle was promoted to fill a position vacated by a lieutenant who resigned. Three part-timers were hired as full-time firefighters, leaving two part-time firefighters and seven reservists. Two of those reservists are currently in paramedic school.
There were no station brownouts for lack of staffing in the month of October. Reservists logged 223 standby hours for the month. A new reserve fire academy started Nov. 1 with 13 recruits.
A new engine is under contract with delivery tentatively scheduled for August or September 2018. Petersma said another engine hopefully will be ordered in 2019.
The Armonia Ranch cistern has been out of service but repairs have been made. The Rural Water Fund will be used to improve drafting capabilities and safety at this cistern.
The district received 2,033 calls for service as of Oct. 31, which represents an 18.5 percent increase over the same period last year. At the current pace, the district projects a year-end total of 2,300 to 2,400 calls.
Volunteer pension board
All trustees were present except for Rex Weir.
Pension board trustees discussed options based on the 2017 actuarial study results.
The FFPD 2018 proposed budget includes a $30,000 contribution to the volunteer pension fund. The current monthly benefit amount of $500 could be maintained with a $23,000 contribution. An increase to $520 would require a $27,000 contribution, and an increase to $540 would require a $31,000 contribution.
The pension board passed a motion to increase the monthly volunteer pension benefit to $520, with the FFPD contribution to be $30,000 subject to FFPD board approval.
The pension board also passed a motion to approve the 2018 pension fund budget.
Shiloh Mesa exclusion
The district received a check for expenses related to the Shiloh Mesa exclusion but has not been provided with any direction on how to proceed.
The board discussed three budget proposals: the current proposed budget; a budget that supports three additional full-time firefighter positions in mid-2018; and a budget that supports hiring six new full-time firefighters in mid-2018.
Petersma explained that the calculations to estimate long-term financial sustainability are based on a conservative annual growth rate of 3 percent. Based on that figure and estimated cost increases, he said a mill levy increase of 1 mill would be necessary by the year 2028 to sustain the budget. Hiring three full-time firefighters in 2018 would require an additional 1.5 mills to maintain financial solvency past 2026. The addition of six firefighters would require a 2.0 mill increase for the district to remain solvent past 2023.
Hiring six additional full-time firefighters would provide three full-timers per shift at each of FFPD’s three staffed stations, Petersma said. Hiring just three full-time firefighters would leave one station staffed with two full-timers per shift.
Director Joan Hathcock asked why the district would wait until midyear to hire more firefighters. Petersma said availability of qualified candidates was one reason, but the budget also factored in just a half-year of benefits. He said costs are evaluated as the year progresses, which could allow them to be hired earlier. Petersma noted that part-time salaries and overtime are both included in the budget.
The board reached a consensus on the option to hire three additional full-time firefighters.
Station 2 cell tower lease
Petersma reported that Fidelity Towers wants to renew its lease for Station 2 land for a cell tower at $500 year. The district would receive $750 per month when the tower actually goes into use by cell service providers. AT&T has reportedly requested space on the tower but has not yet taken action. Petersma noted that Verizon and Sprint typically follow AT&T’s lead.
Fidelity Towers allows the district to use the tower for its VHF repeater and will provide a small building for communications equipment, Petersma said. He said the district cannot lease to any other provider as long as Fidelity is there. The board discussed whether other options are available.
December board meeting
The December board meeting will be held Dec. 13, which is a week earlier than usual, to accommodate the statutory deadline for the 2018 budget.