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"Dad taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, he didn't teach me everything he knows."
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 6 June 2018  

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  FFPD February board meeting
  By Robin Widmar

   The Falcon Fire Protection District held its regular monthly board meeting Feb. 21. All directors were present, along with Richard Shearer, legal counsel for the district.
   
   Treasurerís report
   Fire Chief Trent Harwig reported that the fiscal year was 8 percent complete as of Jan. 31. The district has received 1 percent of its anticipated revenue and general fund expenses are at 6 percent. Expenses included the districtís annual payment for workersí compensation insurance and the lease-purchase payment for Station 4.
   
   Incident statistics
   FFPD received 233 calls for service in January ó a 33.1 percent increase over January 2017.
   
   Reservists
   Deputy Chief Jeff Petersma reported that FFPD reservists (volunteers) logged 228 reserve standby hours for January. He said two reservists from the current recruit class have been released to the line and will start completing their task books. The remaining eight recruits have passed their Firefighter I certifications, and are currently working on hazardous materials operations; they will complete wildland firefighting training after that. A new recruit academy will begin in April.
   
   U.S. Highway 24/Meridian Road intersection redesign
   Director Tom Kerby reported that the project is scheduled to begin later this year.
   
   Shiloh Mesa exclusion
   Attorney Richard Shearer reported he has heard nothing regarding the Shiloh Mesa exclusion. He has been waiting for information such as property descriptions, but the contact for the exclusion effort has not returned emails. Shearer recommended that FFPD refund a deposit for expenses related to the exclusion effort, noting that the group can reapply for exclusion when it is ready to do so.
   
   Station 2 cell tower lease
   Harwig said county records show that the lease for the cell tower at Station 2 could have expired. He said Fidelity Towers is willing to extend/renew the lease but he does not know whether the company would be willing to go through the whole process again if the lease has lapsed.
   
   The board discussed options for leasing the site. Petersma noted that AT&T may be interested since it has a contract for FirstNet, which is a new broadband service intended for use by first responders.
   
   Harwig will follow up on the cell tower lease agreement.
   
   Public safety task force
   Harwig said a public safety task force is being assembled to study the issues the district is facing (see FFPD special board meeting Jan. 24). Invitations have been sent out but so far only a few people have committed to participating. He said the goal is to have diverse representation from around the district.
   
   The first task force meeting is scheduled for March 15. The last meeting will follow the June board meeting, and the task force will present its recommendations at the July board meeting.
   
   Gallagher and TABOR
   Harwig said the Colorado State Fire Chiefs organization is trying to address the negative financial impact to fire agencies and other special districts created by the Gallagher amendment and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). The organization wants legislation passed that extends the current residential property tax assessment rate of 7.2 percent for two more years, rather than enacting another downward adjustment so soon after the previous rate decrease.
   
   Harwig noted that any solution comes with risks, such as assessment rate decreases that occur during a decrease in real estate values. However, special districts also cannot continue to absorb the loss of potential revenue. Harwig estimated that FFPD would have received about $213,000 more this year if the residential property tax assessment rate hadnít adjusted under Gallagher. Over time, that number grows to millions in lost potential revenue.
   
   The board also passed Resolution 2-21-2018-1, authorizing a polling place election.
  
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  FFPD special board meeting
  By Robin Widmar

   The Falcon Fire Protection District held a special board meeting Jan. 24. All directors were present, along with Richard Shearer, legal counsel for the district.
   
   The directors discussed a proposal submitted by Paul Hanley, senior vice president with George K. Baum & Co., to help FFPD solicit public input and communicate with citizens regarding a possible mill levy increase. The increase would improve the fire districtís service to its citizens by funding its own ambulance service and increasing firefighter staffing levels. (For further information about ambulance service in the Falcon area, see this monthís FFPD column.)
   
   The fire districtís current revenue is not sufficient to support an ambulance service or increase the number of full-time firefighters on duty every day. Fire Chief Trent Harwig said the district receives $362,612 per mill at the current assessed residential rate. The districtís current 8.612 mill levy is among the lowest mill levies of comparable fire districts in El Paso County. Current FFPD firefighter staffing is three full-time firefighters per shift at two stations and two full-time firefighters per shift at one station, with part-time and reserve firefighters filling in where needed. The district has budgeted for hiring an additional full-time firefighter later this year.
   
   Harwig said that increasing the mill levy by 5.5 mills would bring in an additional $1,994,000 per year. The increase would allow the district to hire enough qualified personnel to staff two ambulances full time with an EMT and a paramedic each, increase firefighter staffing to four full-time personnel per shift at each of the districtís three staffed stations; and hire an EMS division chief.
   
   The mil levy increase would cost a homeowner about $118 on a $300,000 home at todayís assessed values and rates, Harwig estimated. If passed by voters, the new mill levy would take effect in January 2019, and the district would start receiving the additional revenue in April 2019.
   
   Harwig said these preliminary numbers only relate to personnel, not the apparatus, equipment, supplies, maintenance, training or insurance necessary for operating an ambulance service. He said the ambulance could generate $500,000 to $600,000 through transport fees, but that is only a rough estimate. Director Joan Hathcock noted that district residents or their insurance companies would still pay for ambulance transports in addition to the additional property taxes. Harwig said that district residents will pay for ambulance transports anyway, whether they pay AMR or FFPD. However, the revenue generated by district-owned ambulances will support the fire districtís own services and staff.
   
   The district is pursuing, and has a good chance of being awarded, a state matching grant for one ambulance, Harwig said. The ambulance being considered by the district will cost about $212,000, which excludes equipment such as the specialized cot, cardiac monitor, radios, medical supplies, etc. The grant would cover 50 percent of the cost of just the ambulance. The districtís long-term plans include purchasing a second ambulance in 2019.
   
   Another reason the board is considering a mill levy increase is future reduced revenue because of the combined limitations of the Gallagher amendment, which was intended to maintain a balance between commercial and residential property taxes, and TABOR (Taxpayerís Bill of Rights). Harwig reported that the Special District Association of Colorado has already alerted its members that residential property assessment rates are expected to adjust again under the Gallagher amendment. This means that although property values are expected to rise, the rate at which they are assessed will adjust from the current 7.2 percent to an estimated 6.5 percent.
   
   The services provided by George K. Baum & Co. are estimated to cost $42,300, which includes consulting fees, mailings, polling, discussions with the public, etc. Harwig said only $10,000 was originally budgeted in 2018 to support a possible mill levy increase. However, $30,000 that was also budgeted in 2018 for mobile data computers was not needed because the computers were paid for at the end of 2017 from the 2017 budget. Therefore, the 2018 budget can be adjusted to use those funds for the consultant.
   
   Board president Dan Kupferer said, ďIt makes sense to hire someone with a good track record Ö rather than wing it on our own.Ē Hanley has assisted with 300 special district mill levy votes, of which 299 were successful.
   
   The board moved into executive session to discuss the contract. Afterward, in public session, the board voted unanimously to accept the Public Policy Services Engagement Agreement from George K. Baum & Co., subject to service clarification by legal counsel and changing the contract date to Jan. 24.
  
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