Accepting a federal grant to fund new firefighters depends on voters

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Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District voters will decide in November on a mill levy increase to fund district operations but that isn't the only decision they will be making. They will also be deciding whether the district can take advantage of a $700,000 federal grant that would fully fund the hiring and employment of six new firefighters for two years.

“We knew there was a possibility that we would be receiving a (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” said Battalion Chief Bryan Jack at the district's Sept. 26 regular meeting. “But we were hoping we wouldn't receive the award until after the election.”

Those hopes were dashed on Sept. 19 when the district received a message from Sen. Mark Udall congratulating the district on winning the grant. Receiving a grant now is problematic for the district because, as was explained at a special district meeting on Sept. 11, the grant requires that the district not lay off any employees for two years after accepting the grant. The district would not be able to fulfill that requirement if the mill levy doesn't pass on Nov. 6.

“We called Sen. Udall's office to clarify our position,” Jack said. “Ordinarily, the grant offer would expire in 30 days but we were able to rearticulate our position with FEMA and they will allow us to wait until after the election to accept (or refuse) the grant.”

With that decision on hold, the board also approved two resolutions that map out the district's spending plans for the near future.

The first resolution is an emergency cost-reduction plan that would go into effect if voters fail to approve the mill levy increase. It would eliminate three “operational line staff,” close the station 3 in Woodmoor and reduce the district's beginning-of-the-year fund balance to $600,000 to cover operating expenses for January and February until tax revenues start to arrive from the county. These cuts would save $615,188 in 2013 and the district would have to make additional cuts and reduce services again in 2014.

The second resolution sets out a five-year spending plan that in the end could allow the district to reduce its mill levy. The plan would bring the district's operating budget up to 2007-2008 levels, allow the district to repair, maintain or replace necessary equipment, pay off debts, reinstate training and education protocols and restore the capital improvement plan and other critical funds by 2018.

Members of Monument Firefighters Local No. 4319 have offered to help the district educate the public about its need for more funding.

The board also appointed Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk to fill an open position left when former board President Charlie Pocock resigned for health reasons. Shirk couldn't be sworn in because he was attending an out-of-state conference.

There will be a special meeting on Oct. 8 to discuss two budgets for next year, one that includes the mill levy increase and that doesn't.

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