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The line has been drawn

At their Dec. 20 meeting, the El Paso Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to overrule the Peyton Fire Protection District’s decision to deny developer Ray O’Sullivan’s request to exclude 676 acres of the Santa Fe Springs development from the Peyton fire district.As reported in the Oct. 6 edition of The New Falcon Herald, O’Sullivan had already made arrangements for the subject land to be included in the Falcon Fire Protection District, following its exclusion from the Peyton fire district.The BOCC heard arguments from Ray O’Sullivan’s attorney, Jim Collins, and Alice Levering, treasurer of the Peyton fire district, on Dec. 13 but was unable to make a decision that day because board members had not reviewed transcripts of the previous hearings and exhibits provided by both parties.At the Dec. 13 hearing, Collins argued that the vast majority of Santa Fe Springs development is in the Falcon fire district, that the Falcon fire district has 18 full-time paid firefighters and 35 volunteers and that the developer was already obligated to build a fire station at 50 percent build out in the Falcon fire district, just a few blocks south of the exclusion area. Overall, Collins said, the Falcon fire district is larger and better able to serve the exclusion area.Collins asked the board to consider three key points in making their decision: public safety, the finances of future residents in the exclusion area and a fair resolution between the two districts. Overriding the Peyton fire district’s decision and allowing the exclusion would lower the cost of insurance and the mill levy rate for the area’s future residents, Collins said.”I’m not here to discredit the Peyton fire district. They do a fine job for a rural district,” Collins said. “As suburban areas grow, they should be taken over by urban fire districts, and rural fire districts should back off.”Levering said the Peyton fire district is ready, willing and able to serve the Santa Fe Springs development. Judge Orr Road provides a clear demarcation between the Falcon and Peyton fire districts. Allowing the exclusion would create an irregular boundary in violation of the county’s own policy, Levering said.Levering said the exclusion request is based on speculation that the Falcon fire district will staff the proposed new fire station, which is required to achieve an ISO rating of six, and that the information submitted by Santa Fe Springs did not mention the Peyton fire district’s recent improvements in training and equipment.The information provided by Santa Fe Springs also assumes the Peyton fire district won’t improve its ISO rating in the next eight to 15 years, Levering said.The Peyton fire district is committed to becoming a fire district with full-time paid staff and volunteers, she said. “We welcome growth because we realize it will fund improvement in service,” Levering said. “No rural fire district can afford to lose revenue.” She estimated the lost revenue at $300,000 per year at full build out of the exclusion area.Levering also said the county approved a map of the Santa Fe Springs development that shows a fire station in the exclusion area. O’Sullivan said the plan has multiple fire station sites because “we were trying to be flexible as to where it ended up. I want to have one fire station to serve the entire development.””If the exclusion is allowed, the excluded area will still have an ISO rating of nine since it is more than five road miles from Falcon’s fire station and will place a greater burden on the residents remaining in the district,” Levering said.After the board’s decision, Levering said she could not comment on whether the Peyton fire district plans to appeal the decision in district court.

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