Voters approve property tax for Oak Creek fire department |

Voters approve property tax for Oak Creek fire department

Voters approved a property tax increase to increase revenues for the Oak Creek Fire Protection District in a special election. The money will allow the fire department to hire additional staff and improve emergency response.
File photo/Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A ballot measure to increase revenue for the Oak Creek Fire Protection District has passed. 

In a special election, voters approved a 4-mill increase in local property taxes by a vote of 194-167, according to Fire Chief Chuck Wisecup. Official results were expected earlier in the month but got postponed due to a glitch.

The measure will raise the fire department’s revenue by about $198,000 annually, he said, allowing the fire department to hire three additional, full-time personnel and help what Wisecup described as an overworked and underpaid crew

The last time the fire department asked for and received a mill levy increase was in 2002, according to Wisecup, back when call volumes were about half of current rates. During the summer, Oak Creek often deals with wildfires that stretch resources even thinner. 

To meet demand, firefighters work 96-hour shifts followed by 96 hours of time off, Wisecup said, which often leaves them tired and unable to take vacation time.

The fire department currently employs five full-time firefighters and a combination 12 paid, on-call and volunteer personnel. 

Adding three full-time firefighters will allow the fire department to keep two people on duty 24/7, according to Deputy Fire Chief Jay Kenealy. That provides the department with the manpower to more effectively respond to calls and reduce fatigue on the staff.  It also provides more competitive wages to recruit and retain firefighters.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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