Sopris Sun Staff
Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District will get three more years at their current property tax level, if preliminary election results are any guide.
Voters across the district’s three counties came out almost two to one in favor of measure 4C, with 1,421 votes for and 796 against. Most of the votes came out of Garfield County, while Pitkin County residents boasted an even more robust 69 percent support and 55 percent of Gunnison County voters backed it.
“The residents and visitors of the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District are fortunate and thankful for all the volunteer and career firefighters, EMTS, administrative staff and elected officials who, working together, provide first class emergency services to a first-class community,” Fire Chief Ron Leach said in a statement. “Tonight’s election results deliver a great vote of confidence from the community to these dedicated public servants.”
The district has historically enjoyed support for mill levy overrides, but was notably shot down in 2013 when it pursued a significant increase with no expiration date. That dropped the overall rate to 5.903 total mills while property values continued to fall. Two lean years later and after extensive public discussion and master planning, the board again pursued an increase, this time for 1.75 additional mills with a two-year sunset clause, which proved palatable. The latest vote is essentially a renewal of that rate with a slightly longer sunset.
Board President Gene Schilling viewed the apparent approval as a sign of renewed faith in the fire department.
“I think we’ve been doing a great job out there and I think this shows that. We learned what the voters expected from us and what they’d accept,” he said. “We’ve tried to be really conservative while still getting the funding that we need. I think we’ll be able to continue to give them the upstanding service they expect.”
According to Schilling, the extension should be sufficient to keep staffing at the current level and maintain ongoing programming. I still falls short of pre-recession levels and may leave some larger projects on hold. It’s possible, he said, that the board might also try to pursue a bond issue for capital funding in the near future.
In the end, he felt Carbondale made the right call in supporting their fire and ambulance service.
“The life you saved by voting yes may be your own,” he noted.