The Falcon Fire Protection District held its regular board meeting July 18. All board members were present.
Public Safety Task Force recommendation
Falcon Fire Chief Trent Harwig said the district received a memorandum from the Public Safety Task Force recommending it move forward with the proposed mill levy increase ballot measure. He said the task force met several times over a four-month period to review and discuss the proposal. About 1,100 fire district residents provided feedback by completing the mail survey, attending town hall meetings and/or commenting directly to the district by phone or email. Harwig read the memorandum aloud, which stated, in part:
“Task Force members present at the final meeting were unanimous that Falcon Fire Protection District should proceed in placing a mill levy increase of 6.274 mills on the November 2018 ballot to address the following operating and equipment needs:
Task force member Fred Little said residents he spoke with seem to be supportive of the proposal, particularly once the detrimental effects of the Gallagher Amendment were explained to them. “I didn’t hear much negative about it,” he said.
- “Implementing a full-service, in-district, advanced life support ambulance service — to be operated by FFPD — to significantly improve response times for 911 emergency medical calls and to assure that an ambulance will be available for Falcon residents in light of contractual uncertainties with private providers now and in the future.
- “Adding frontline firefighter/EMTs to each station to maintain emergency services, provide a more effective and efficient workforce and protect existing ISO ratings to help maintain lower homeowner’s insurance premiums.”
Task force member Cheryl Everett, who lives in FFPD’s District 2, said she encountered skepticism that a district-operated ambulance would provide much benefit to Districts 2 and 5 in the northernmost part of the fire district, noting that the Black Forest ambulance would likely arrive before the Falcon ambulance in many cases. Everett said residents in those areas were more concerned about fire protection than EMS, especially with the ongoing high fire danger.
Harwig said, “It’s important not to lose sight of that fact.” He said some residents in the northern response areas have asked why they are in Falcon’s fire district instead of Black Forest and how the mill levy would benefit them. Board President Dan Kupferer said, “It gets us more firefighters and an ambulance.”
Discussion turned to the July 12 announcement that the city of Colorado Springs terminated its contract negotiations with Priority Ambulance. The city will revise and reissue the Request for Proposal in 12 to 18 months. Regarding the future of ambulance service to county residents, Kupferer said, “It just makes more uncertainty in my mind.”
Harwig said the current AMR contract can be extended another year, which means the city and county contracts with AMR would both end in December 2019, although there is a possibility additional extensions could be granted. He said if FFPD’s mill levy increase passes, it would take about a year to get the district’s ambulance into service. He also said the district was turned down for the state grant that would have partially funded the ambulance purchase.
Harwig noted that AMR is meeting its Emergency Services Agency contractual obligations, but still has extended response times. “Meeting ESA requirements isn’t necessarily good for our citizens,” Kupferer said.
If the mill levy increase passes, Harwig said he anticipates that firefighter/EMTs would be hired in the first quarter of 2019. Firefighter/paramedics would be hired “closer to the fourth quarter.” Two ambulances would require six full-time firefighter/paramedics and six firefighter/EMTs to staff them. Some kind of on-call list or built-in overtime will be developed to cover gaps. He also said that three ambulances “would be ideal,” but the budget under the proposed mill levy increase only supports two.
“We’re one of the highest call volumes in the county who doesn’t have our own ambulance service,” Harwig said. The district’s call volume ultimately will dictate what that service looks like, he added.
Board members unanimously approved a motion to notify the county of its intent to place the mill levy increase question on the November ballot.
Kupferer thanked the task force members for their participation and efforts. “We appreciate all the input.”
With the fiscal year 50 percent complete as of June 30, Harwig reported that the district had received 66 percent of its anticipated revenue, and expenditures were at 45 percent across all categories in the general fund.
Harwig pointed out that salaries were under budget as the district is waiting to hire new firefighters. It has applied for a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant, but that grant cannot be applied retroactively. The fire district would only be able to hire personnel under the grant after it has been awarded. Harwig said it is in the district’s best interest to hold off on hiring until the grant award letters are sent out.
Harwig reported that reservists logged 775 standby hours in June, an increase of about 25 hours from May. There were no station “brownouts” in June.
The district received 229 calls for service in June, which is a 10.1 percent increase over June 2017. There were 1,317 calls through June 30, which is a 14.7 percent increase over the same time last year. Seventy-two incidents resulted in one or more patients being transported by ambulance, which accounted for 57 percent of all EMS calls and traffic accidents combined. (This total does not include inter-facility transfers or private-line calls to AMR for which FFPD is not dispatched.)
In June, FFPD units had an average emergent response time of six minutes and 50 seconds across all response districts. The average emergent response time for all ambulances across all response districts was nine minutes and 38 seconds. The data analyst said these response times continue to demonstrate the value of the district having its own ambulance service.
Harwig reported that there was nothing to note in the fire district’s most recent audit. “The auditor was satisfied with everything,” he said.
Harwig said there is no longer a requirement to have a separate budget for the volunteer pension fund budget to satisfy the state, but the district does have to account for the pension fund in its budget.
Richard Shearer discussed the status of the land parcel to the west of FFPD Station 3. He said it appears the fire district had an easement across the parcel at one time, but Kupferer said there was no easement before or after that parcel was sold to Cygnet. Harwig said there may have been an easement for Falcon Highlands across the property, which is still incorrectly recorded as belonging to the fire district. Shearer recommended having the appraiser provide instructions on how to proceed since FFPD does not claim an easement.
The FFPD’s updated service plan has been filed and is complete.
Shiloh Mesa exclusion
Shearer reported that the city’s attorney agrees that the fire district should be doing a more global exclusion rather than pursuing multiple individual property exclusions; he will immediately process the paperwork when it is complete.
U.S. Highway 24 and Old Meridian Road intersection redesign
Director Tom Kerby reported that the county and state hope to start on construction before the end of the year. He said he has not yet seen any plans for curbing.
Harwig said the fire district needs to know the timeline so it can seek bids for resurfacing the Station 3 driveway and parking lot. Kupferer said the station’s planned changeover from well and septic to municipal water and sewer services would best be accommodated at the same time.