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Fire board discusses budgets and more in Redstone

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By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Not that the members need to pack a suitcase, but the Carbondale Fire District Board of Directors are slated to discuss a passel of topics when it goes on the road for a monthly meeting at the Redstone Fire Station on June 11.

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Among the items listed on the draft agenda:

• The 2014 budget;

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• Planning for the 2015 budget;

• Revising the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District’s bylaws;

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• An election update.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.; the Redstone Fire Station is located at the north end of Redstone Boulevard.

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Incumbents Gene Schilling and Michael Kennedy, and new board member Carl Smith, recently took their oath of office. This will be Smith’s first board meeting and six of the draft agenda items are at his request.

“I’m excited,” said Smith, who has served as a staff member and volunteer with the district. “ … this is a great opportunity to move forward.”

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Smith pointed out that four of the five board members are former firefighters with the district. “Everyone is aware of what must be done.”

In the May election, Smith received the most votes, followed by Kennedy. Schilling edged out sitting board member Mark Chain by five votes. Challenger Gary McElwee finished fifth, 12 votes behind Schilling.

Smith told The Sopris Sun that as a new board member, he wants an update of the 2014 budget, in part to get a clear idea of picture of the reserve fund. He’s also proposing for the board to receive a budget update from staff at every monthly meeting.

Last December, the board slashed the budget for 2014 by $700,000, after voters shot down a mill levy ballot question that could have doubled property taxes. In response, the board appointed a 17-member citizen advisory committee to review the 2014 budget and make recommendation for 2015. He expects the discussion on the 2015 budget will be philosophical rather than to look at specifics.

Smith said fire chief Ron Leach has already done an “excellent job” of briefing the citizens advisory committee on the 2014 budget. From there, Smith the district is moving toward a multi-year forecast. “The foundation work has begun,” he said.

The draft agenda calls for a discussion on staff presenting monthly reports from all five of the district’s divisions: Operations (which includes fires, ambulance calls, river rescues and more), Training, Fire Prevention, Administration and Maintenance.

Smith pointed to the Maintenance Division to explain some of the complexities involved in running a fire district, especially one that provides fire and ambulance service, and also relies on volunteer firefighters. The Maintenance Division not only maintains each fire station and more than 30 pieces of equipment, but is also in charge of on-going testing of equipment. “There are a whole host of things that must be tested,” Smith said. “ … Like hose testing. There are miles of (fire) hose.”

Smith said that monthly reports will not only help the board, but also the public in understanding how the district operates. “ … they (reports) show that here are some of the services the public is getting … ,” Smith said.

The draft agenda also calls for the board to discuss revising its bylaws. Smith said the bylaws were drafted and approved in 1955 and apparently; they have undergone little or no updating since. One draft agenda item calls for discussion of the district’s website content and a citizen request to post minutes previous to 2012, but the bylaws were written before the Internet even existed. Smith would also like for the board to discuss a new bylaw that states the board cannot take a vote on anything that is not on a meeting agenda. “That (bylaw provision) is pretty common,” he said.

In other fire district news:

• Jeff Wadley withdrew his application for a recount for May’s board election. In an e-mail to The Sopris Sun, Wadley said in part: “The recount will not address the poor perceptions around the election procedures. The five election judges did a great job and there is no need to reconfirm by a recount their portion of the election.” Wadley and others said they had concerns about what they said were possible irregularities during the vote count at the Carbondale Fire Station on election night. At the board’s May 14 meeting, the board had virtually no comment on concerns about possible irregularities after McElwee asked twice about them. An election update is one draft agenda item for the June 11 meeting.

• The Task Force Committee will meet at the Carbondale Fire Station on June 16 and continue discussion on the 2015 budget and related financial recommendations.

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