Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on 6A to support West Routt Fire
The West Routt Fire Protection District is asking voters to approve Referendum 6A, a 3-mill property tax increase, on Nov. 2, and we believe the proposal deserves a “yes” vote.
The 3 mills are projected to generate about $350,000 more in funding for the district in the first year, at a time when the district is already feeling the impacts of the planned closure of the Hayden Station power plant in 2028. Fire Chief Trevor Guire is anticipating a loss of about $40,000 in funding this year alone.
The decrease in tax revenue comes at a time when the cost of maintaining West Routt’s aging infrastructure is on the rise. The fire district still has a 1973 Peterbilt engine in its fleet, and the firehouse is more than 40 years old and in need of repair.
West Routt is also struggling with staffing. The district has only one emergency medical technician on its team, which puts additional stress on Guire and his assistant fire chief. The district also can no longer rely on volunteer EMTs.
If 6A passes, the fire district plans to invest in equipment and maintenance and hire additional staff. Studies show that burnout among emergency service workers is high, and the COVID-19 pandemic only heightened the issue. With more staff, the district could have two people on shift 24/7, which would decrease response time and create less stress for the firefighting team.
At issue: Hayden area voters are being asked to consider approving a 3-mill property tax increase to support the West Routt Fire Protection District.
Our View: A well-equipped and properly staffed fire department is essential to Hayden’s future.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Bryce Martin, assistant editor
• Ana Gomez, community representative
• Kelly McElfish, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
A similar issue failed at the polls in a special election last year. The margin of loss was two votes, and the fire chief at the time said he thought the uncertainty brought by COVID-19 was the reason the issue didn’t pass. Now, it’s a year later, and we think it’s time Hayden area voters support their fire district.
We also appreciate the fact that the fire district is being proactive and anticipating what will happen as the energy industry’s presence winds down in the area with the closing of Hayden Station, a large local taxpayer. That type of planning deserves support.
A “yes” vote does come with a financial cost to area residents, but the price seems reasonable for ensuring reliable, dependable fire protection, which is an essential service and not discretionary spending. The owner of a house in West Routt worth $100,000 would pay $21.45 more per year in taxes, and the owner of a commercial property valued at $100,000 would pay about $87 more in property taxes a year if 6A passes.
We also know wildfire risk continues to grow, and as a rural fire protection district, West Routt firefighters can be called into help fight these devastating fires depending on where they occur, which can put further pressure on an already strained department. And supporting 6A helps ensure firefighters have the bandwidth to fight these fires.
It comes down to this: A well-equipped and staffed fire department is important to Hayden’s future. As more and more people are priced out of Steamboat Springs, Hayden is becoming a place where families are landing. The town is growing, and as the population expands, more pressure is put on firefighting resources, and they need additional resources to provide reliable, life-saving service to more people and more properties. A “yes” on 6A makes sense and is the right thing to do.
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