The Public Meeting of the Kiowa County Commissioners was called to order by Chairman Richard Scott, August 1, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. and conducted by the Kiowa County Attorney, Wendy Shinn. There were 34 in attendance including:
Richard Scott, Chairman
Cindy McLoud, Commissioner
Donald Oswald, Commissioner
Wendy Shinn, County Attorney
Tina Adamson, County Administrator
Teresa Witte, Petitioner at Large
Marvin Watson, Petitioner al Large
Jay Specht, Petitioner District 1
Terry Riley, Petitioner District 2
Delton Eikenberg, Petitioner District 3
Richard Lyons, Attorney
Casey Sheridan, Kiowa County Sheriff
The meeting began with the introduction of the Attorney for the fire district and gave the meeting over to him to present the information to the Board of Commissioners.
Richard Lyons, Attorney for the Fire District, began with a brief introduction and entered the exhibits to be filed with the Court. The Service Plan for the formation of a Title 32 District was entered as Exhibit A. The Proof of Publication of Notice of Hearing was entered as Exhibit B. The Affidavit regarding Notice of Hearing was entered as Exhibit C. The thirteen requests for exclusion from the District were entered as Exhibit D.
Attorney Lyons described a Title 32 district and introduced the Petitioners for the District who submitted the Service Plan for the Fire District to the Board of Commissioners. He briefly gave instruction to the Commissioners as to the information that they will consider, the Colorado Statutes that govern the process, and the determination that would need to be made. He reviewed the Petition of no less than 200 signatures from taxpaying electors in Kiowa County and potential ballot questions that would be requested of the Courts. The questions that will be included are;
- Formation of the District
- Mill Levy
- Election of Directors
Attorney Lyons also spoke of the potential aspects and powers that will be reserved for the Fire District. The District will have the powers of Fire protection and Search and Rescue to begin but may add additional powers to meet the County's needs in the future.
He called on Sheriff Sheridan who has an extensive background with the fire departments in the County to speak to the need for a unified district.
Sheriff Sheridan spoke concerning the need for organization and unified command, training, maintenance of equipment, reliability of equipment, accountability. He gave brief descriptions of each of these needs.
Terry Riley spoke of the structure of the District, including keeping the four fire houses that are currently here, the positions and chain of command in the District. The District will include a Board of Directors, Fire Chief, Assistant Chief, Administrative Assistant, Captains and firefighters. He described the disciplines of the personnel and how these would be provided for. As an example, he stated that each fire house would have a Captain and each would be in charge of a certain discipline of training like structure fire, hazardous material, and search & rescue.
Teresa Witte addressed the financial aspect of the District. She gave a brief description of the 3.5 mill levy and how that translates to not only the taxpayers but as income for the District to provide for budgeted expenses. The 3.5 mill levy will provide approximately $147,000.00 annually to the District. The expenses such as part-time salaries for the Chief and Administrative Assistant and the fire volunteers pensions were reviewed. Other expenses reviewed were building costs, equipment updates and repairs, supplies, legal, insurance, and accounting costs. The unused income will be kept by the District and carried over from year to year. This will allow for monies to provide for updated equipment or grant matches. Teresa spoke about grant availability and how that increases when you become a fire district.
Tristen Sheridan questioned the budget and her concern that there was enough budgeted to adequately provide for specific needs such as training and stipends. Terry Riley responded concerning the training and the option to "train the trainer". This would allow for the training of one person who could then train the rest of the volunteers. Teresa explained options like this and the increased ability to bring in special training will be a much more efficient use of funds.
Cardon Berry questioned the Towns and County's financial commitment to the Fire District and if their current budgets would be added into the Fire District funds. Teresa said that they were going to try to help financially at least for the first few years but that they would not be obligated to. The amounts would likely be much less than the current budgeted amounts if they were able to provide any funds at all. The intergovernmental agreements that will be entered into once the District is formed will include funding options.
Cardon also questioned the Tabor issue that would allow for the Special District to keep excess funds and accumulate from year to year instead of returning unused funds to the taxpayers. Commissioner McLoud responded that the Fire District would have to De-Bruce itself to allow for this and it wouldn't fall under the County for Tabor/De-Brucing.
Laura Negley noted that the lack of training of our volunteer firefighters does affect them adversely when they try to work at other fire departments. She stated in support of the District that better documentation will help in getting grant funds. Also that it is her understanding that the District is eligible for at least 80% more grant funding than is currently available to towns and counties. Terry Riley agreed that specific training will be required so that when they do move to other fire districts or departments they will be qualified. The Board, once formed, may work with local colleges to try to provided any of our fireman with a way to get a degree in fire science if they choose to.
Tristen Sheridan also questioned whether there would be a memorandums of understanding made with the Kiowa County Ambulance Service as they will continue to provide the emergency medical services for the entire county. Attorney Lyons responded that although the provision is in the Service Plan which will allow the Fire District to include EMS in the future it is not required to. The Fire District is not allowed to duplicate services in the County so until the time that the Kiowa County Ambulance Service would no longer provide service to Kiowa County the Fire District would not provide that service.
Attorney Lyons described the transfer of ownership of the current fire equipment from the Municipalities and the County to the Fire District and that the housing would be leased to the District. Provision will be made in the intergovernmental agreements for this and should the District dissolve the Municipalities and County are guaranteed that they would get their equipment or like equipment back.
Matthew Biszak questioned if the current fire chiefs of each department will become the captains of the fire stations that they are in or what would be the process to choose a captain. Terry Riley responded that the captains would be chosen through a nomination process of the volunteers and the chief would ultimately be responsible for choosing the captains. Each captain will have to commit to specific disciplines and responsibilities and will ultimately be accountable for the operations of their station.
Attorney Lyons addressed a question of training and participation requirements and stated that the Board will set requirements for the volunteers participation in both training and calls. Currently Districts volunteers are required to have 36 hours of training per year which can include on the job training. This means that going to calls can and may be classified as training if the Board so chooses.
John Brown questioned the qualifications to be Fire Chief. Attorney Lyons responded that there are persons qualified and Teresa Witte stated that the chief would be chosen through a standard hiring process.
John was also concerned about varying response times and the need to improve in that area. Terry Riley stated that there would be assigned on call times and other measures implemented to improve all areas of service.
The increase in taxes due to the 3.5 mill levy was an issue for several people and there were suggestions that it should possibly be decreased to 2 mills. Several others attendees were in support of the 3.5 mills and others mentioned that it should probably be higher to adequately support the District. Terry responded that they have tried to request the smallest amount that would ensure enough funds to operate adequately. Also noted was that this amount would not allow for large purchases. The Board will have to rely heavily on grant funding for most equipment upgrades and can even apply for administrative and training grants.
Terry stressed the importance of providing our volunteer firefighters with the appropriate safety gear and training as these are the areas that we are currently severely lacking in. He did say that they will be looking at more affordable options like auctions and possibilities for donated equipment.
Commissioner McLoud made the point that a lot of the taxes we pay benefit other areas or regions and she personally would support this tax as it benefits our county exclusively.
Laura Negley stated some of the ways she thought that the Fire District would benefit our County such as drawing some businesses could be dependent on whether there was a fire district or not. She stated that it could take several years to see the effects but insurance rates could drop. In response, Randy Carney stated that he spoke to his insurance provider and was told that it would not affect his rates at all. Attorney Lyons stated that for most homeowners the insurance rates might not change but that the ISO rating for the municipalities and county certainly could be improved which in turn would benefit commercial properties insurance rates and may be an incentive or could be a deciding factor for some types of businesses to move into the County.
Attorney Lyons presented the requests for exclusion and made recommendation to the Board of Commissioners to deny any such requests. He stressed that the exclusion could cause them and the general public more harm than good. It was brought up that the mineral rights owners may not realize that should they want to drill for minerals companies would be reluctant to if there was no fire protection for them. The point was brought up that a fire during drilling, storing or hauling petroleum products would be a substantial loss for them. Also it would not be practical to try to keep track of which properties to protect and which not to.
Attorney Lyons read Resolution 2016-8 for the approval of the Service Plan of the Kiowa County Fire Protection District.
At 5:00 pm the hearing ended and the Kiowa County Board of Commissioners entered into a special meeting where they considered the petition of the District representatives and the public testimony for and against the formation of a county wide fire protection district. Resolution 2016-8 approving the Service Plan of the Kiowa County Fire Protection District was adopted with no exclusions to the District.
Kiowa County Administrator