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Five fire district board candidates speak out

On April 25, candidates for the Falcon Fire Protection District board of directors participated in a forum, sponsored by The New Falcon Herald. The forum was held at the Falcon fire station.The FFPD board provides direction to the department on strategic planning, financial solvency and coordination with neighboring fire districts. Five candidates are running for three open positions on the board. If elected, they will serve a four-year term.The candidates are Dena Bramhall, Mike Collins, Alex Donnell, Brandon Payne and Kevin W. Ray. Because of family commitments, Payne and Ray were unable to attend the forum.Candidates Bramhall, Collins and Donnell answered questions about their personal qualifications for the board and their ideas for the future.Over the last four years, the current FFPD board increased staff salaries and benefits, acquired new equipment and forged a shared services agreement with Cimarron Hills Fire Department. However, the candidates all agreed that the board has largely failed to communicate with FFPD residents.”The lack of knowledge among voters is the biggest hurdle to overcome,” Donnell said.Bramhall agreed, “The board needs to be educating the community in every way we can.””People don’t understand how big the district is,” Collins said. The residents need to understand that the current level of services don’t adequately meet the demand placed by the community, he said.FFPD’s greatest need is for more stations and manpower, he added, citing the Claremont Ranch area as a top priority for more services.The current FFPD board recently created an agreement with Cimarron Hills to help improve the response time for people living in the Claremont Ranch area. The agreement calls for Cimarron Hills to respond to emergency calls in Claremont Ranch and to house FFPD fire equipment. FFPD, in return, shares its administrative services with Cimarron Hills.Donnell said the arrangement, although vital to that part of the district, is tenuous. A new board, in either Falcon or Cimarron Hills, could choose to terminate the arrangement, he said.Donnell also said he believes greater tax revenue is the solution to FFPD service needs. “Over the last 10 years, Falcon has been behind the curve,” he said. To catch up, voters must pass a bond measure to fund new stations and hire paid firefighters to meet the demand for emergency services, Donnell said.Collins agreed. “I don’t like taxes any more than the next guy,” Collins said. “But I’m willing to put out the $50 to $60 a year to make sure the fire department can get to me in time.”Previous bond measures have failed to pass, but Bramhall doesn’t see that as an obstacle. “Hit them in the pocketbook,” she said. Educating voters that inadequate funding delays response time and increases homeowners’ insurance premiums will make the case for future measures, Bramhall said.The board needs to create a strategic plan to carry FFPD into the future, she added. A strategic plan will guide the board to efficiently meet the needs of the district as it continues to grow. Bramhall also advocated establishing clearly defined roles for board members and the fire chief.Collins said he supports the idea of establishing a fire authority with surrounding districts to create a greater level of service to the community and to avoid duplication of services.Donnell wants to see the board staffed by people with diverse backgrounds. “Vibrant ideas will help us grow into future development,” he said.Attending the forum were paid and volunteer firefighters and residents.”I want to see a board who will take good care of volunteers,” said Tom Resha, FFPD volunteer. The community is unaware that FFPD is largely staffed by volunteers, he added.Resha said he believes the board’s role is to solve the current manpower problems. Volunteers are a part of the solution, but there are not enough volunteers, he said.”The care and feeding of volunteers is different than employees,” said John Scorsine, FFPD volunteer. “We walk with our feet, and management needs to make us feel we are valued,” Scorsine said.All candidates spoke favorably of the volunteer staff and applauded their commitment when paid staff is unavailable.FFPD elections will be held May 6, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at Falcon Fire Station No.1 at 7030 Old Meridian Rd.

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