Our View: City wise to seek input on fire funding options | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: City wise to seek input on fire funding options

As the new year begins, residents of Steamboat Springs who are looking for a way to contribute have the opportunity to serve on an advisory committee that is being formed by Steamboat Springs City Council to help the city decide how best to fund fire and emergency services into the future.

Just a few months ago, council seemed poised to place a fire district inclusion measure on the May ballot, which if approved, would have consolidated the city fire department with the Steamboat Springs Area Fire District. As a result, city property owners would have paid the same property tax as people living in the fire district — up to a rate of 9 mills.

The plan sparked impassioned public debate on both sides of the issue, and more than 200 city property owners petitioned to be excluded from the fire district. This response got council’s attention, and they changed direction. Instead of moving forward with the election, council voted at its Dec. 4 meeting to form a citizens committee to take a deeper look at fire funding options.

At a glance

At issue: The city is inviting community members to apply for a seat on an ad-hoc fire/emergency services facility and funding committee.

Our View: Council’s decision to suspend efforts to pursue a fire district inclusion election was wise and now it’s time for citizens to get involved in finding another solution.

Editorial Board
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Mike Burns, community representative
• Melissa Hampton, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@
SteamboatPilot.com
.

Based on the response to the proposed inclusion agreement, we think City Council was wise to apply the brakes. We don’t question the need for the city to find a more sustainable funding source for Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, but we do think the idea of including the city in the fire protection district is just one of many options to be considered.

If the city had forged on with an inclusion vote, we think it would have been destined to fail and would have represented a waste of time and money.

The formation of a citizens committee ensures community opinion is incorporated in the decision-making process, and it also allows time for committee members to investigate a wide range of funding options before the council pursues a long-term solution. Involving a citizens committee also creates community buy-in, which could ensure a future ballot issue has a greater chance of passing.

There were people who spoke out against the city’s plan to pursue an inclusion agreement and those who supported it, and now it’s time for citizens on both sides of the issue to step up and volunteer to serve on the advisory committee.

Interested individuals have until 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14 to apply, and we hope City Council will have a large number and wide range of community members to choose from. In particular, the city is looking for people with finance and emergency services experience who are able to put aside their personal or professional biases to come up with viable options that will allow the city and the surrounding fire district to provide adequate fire and rescue services to keep pace with growing demand.

Those interested in serving on the committee should contact the city clerk’s office at 970-871-8248 or apply at steamboatsprings.net/apply or in person at City Hall, 137 10th St. All applications will be reviewed Tuesday, Jan. 15.


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