By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale Fire District observers have something new to discuss and keep an eye on.
Rather than a projected $1.85 million reserve at the end of 2014, the functional figure is about $650,000 less than that.
The district put up part of its reserves as collateral and borrowed $900,000 from Alpine Bank to buy a 100-foot-ladder truck, an accompanying tender truck and related equipment in May 2012, according to a report by fire district board candidate Carl Smith and confirmed by Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach.
The annual loan payment for the new trucks is $102,036 and two loan payments have been made, Leach confirmed. So, the district’s useable reserves at the end of the year are expected to be about $1.2 million — not the $1.85 million advertised in the 2014 budget.
The 2015 budget, financial reserves, staffing, service levels and related issues are on the mind of many these days, after fire district residents shot down a property tax hike ballot question last November. That vote forced the district board to dip into reserves for the 2014 budget and prompted it to appoint an advisory task force to meet with the staff and board, learn about how the district works and make comments leading up to a possible ballot question concerning property taxes next November.
The district’s 2004 master plan identifies the “potential” for increased growth in the western part of the district (the CMC turnoff area) and indicated a ladder truck would be needed at the fire station in that area.
Such growth has not occurred, but the district board voted unanimously to buy the new ladder truck in May 2012 after the New Jersey-based Insurance Services Office said it would conduct a new ISO evaluation in June of that year.
Some insurance companies use ISO ratings as a factor in setting their homeowners/fire insurance rates. The district received the ISO report in March of this year, which gives the district a 5/10 rating.
In related fire district news, five candidates are running for three seats in the May 6 election: incumbents Gene Schilling, Michael Kennedy and Mark Chain, plus challengers Carl Smith and Gary McElwee.
It’s a mail-in ballot; ballots not mailed can be turned in at the Carbondale fire station on Meadwood from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 6.